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St Emilion 2012 Classification Under Attack

In an article published online today in Sud Ouest (link at the bottom of this post), Franck Dubourdieu – the cousin of consultant and Bordeaux professor Denis Dubourdieu – has launched a stunning attack on the 2012 St Emilion classification.

Dubourdieu clearly isn’t averse to expressing his opinions, and doesn’t shy away from naming names when it comes to identifying what he sees as inconsistencies and potential conflicts of interest with the drawing up of the new classification, which he points out saw the area of classified land increase from 800 hectares to 1300 hectares, just short of one-quarter of the entire appellation.

St Emilion 2012 classification

The promotion of Angélus and Pavie (pictured above) to Premier Grand Cru Classé A is the first questionable decision according to Dubourdieu, which pushes him into a state of “stupefaction”. These châteaux do not, according to Dubourdieu, have the same level of terroir as Cheval Blanc or Ausone. He goes on to ask why weren’t estates with great terroirs, such as Figeac, Canon and Clos Fourtet elevated instead? There is no doubting Dubourdieu’s intended meaning – despite his stating that he does not doubt the transparency of the assessment – when he points out that Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, proprietor of Angélus, is also (a) regional INAO president, (b) a national committee member of the INAO, and that he was (c) responsible for endorsing the process and (d) responsible for the selection of the committee of impartial assessors. Dubourdieu also points out that the tasting for the premier category accounted for only 30% of the score, as requested by the châteaux, whereas it was 50% at lower levels, another inappropriate and curious decision.

Dubourdieu points the same finger at Yves Besnard, a former associate of Bernard Arnault at LVMH, who has also been involved in the process by virtue of his position with the INAO. It seems clear that Dubourdieu thinks this is important when it comes to the elevation of the LVMH property Quinault L’Enclos, both managed alongside Cheval Blanc (and usually tasted at the estate during the primeurs). This elevation came, says Dubourdieu, despite the lesser sandy terroir of Quinault L’Enclos, a particular travesty in his view.

Finally, in a generic attack on taste and the importance of ‘made’ wines, Dubourdieu attacks the predominance of inky-black wines in the new classification. These are, he says (translated by me – hope I get this right!) “over-extracted, sweet, supple with low acidity, and obviously overoaked” before he goes on to attack these “blockbusters” as having “le goût américain” (I don’t think that bit needs any translation). I think Dubourdieu is making a good point here about the state of some wines in St Emilion today, so it’s a shame he has to finish it off with this jingo-istic anti-American (anti-Parker, maybe) swipe.

With three St Emilion estates already mounting a challenge to the classification as it stands, it seems as though the 2012 listing has the potential to be yet another long chapter in the St Emilion classification saga.

Full article (in French) here.

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