In a move that’s upsetting tradition in the Bordeaux region, two prestigious producers have pulled out of the Saint-Emilion wine classification system.
Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone announced July 9 that they will no longer participate in the classification following a recent rule change that they felt put more emphasis on brand development than the quality of wine produced.
Pauline Vauthier, who manages the family-owned Ausone with her father Alain, told The Times, “The terroir and tasting part of the assessment was too small in comparison with the marketing and social media.”
The classification of wine in Bordeaux originated with a request by Napoleon III in 1855 to celebrate all things French. It took another 100 years before the system came to Saint-Emilion, a premier winegrowing subregion in Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Gironde River.
Long identified as an exceptional terroir, King Louis XIV once declared in 1650: “Saint-Emilion, nectar of the gods.”
The rules governing Saint-Emilion categorization have always been slightly subjective, as a wine’s reputation is one of the most important aspects of the application process. Unlike other appellations in France, the guidelines are updated every 10 years.
Châteaux Cheval Blanc and Ausone, both owned by luxury group LVMH, were honored with the ultra-exclusive Grand Cru Classé A title and are recognized as two of the highest-ranked in the world.
Currently, 82 properties have been officially classified. Of these, 64 are ranked Grand Crus Classé and 18 are Premier Grand Crus Classé. Only four of the latter were honored with the “A” ranking.
It remains to be seen what the implications are for the classification now that two of its most notable producers have pulled out.