Saint-Emilion is the only wine producing area to have set up its own classification system, which has been revised at regular intervals since 1955. After a year of deliberation by the Classification Commission under the guidance of INAO and the French Ministries of Agriculture and Consumption, the 2012 classification honours 82 properties: 64 Grands Crus Classés and 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés have been awarded this recognition.
Saint-Emilion was recognised by lawmakers as early as 1936 with the “Saint-Emilion” AOC. By 1948, Saint-Emilion was the first to implement tasting-based quality control. All growers who wanted to use the Saint-Emilion AOC must submit their wines for tasting in order to qualify. In 1950, the Saint-Emilion winegrowers started to envisage setting up a classification system of the wines bearing the appellation so as to heighten their reputation and provide a further guarantee of quality recognisable by consumers. In 1952, the classification rules were drafted with the agreement of INAO, the French National Appellations Institute under the authority of the Ministry of Agriculture. The final document was officialised in law on 7 October 1954, making it directly enforceable by public authorities and INAO. The 1936 “Saint-Emilion” appellation was joined in 1954 by three new appellations: Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé and Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé. These appellations were later revised in 1984. In order to bear the latter two appellations, wines must come from estates that feature in the official classification that has been duly approved by INAO and periodically revised.
From the outset, the decision was taken not to write the classification in stone, but to use it to drive a continuous quest for quality from all the winegrowers. Each estate accepts the challenge to submit its wines and practices to regular review. The first classification of Saint-Emilion wines was completed on 16 June 1955 and made official in laws dated 7 August and 18 October 1958. It listed 12 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 63 Grands Crus Classés. The second classification was dated 17 November 1969 and featured 12 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 72 Grands Crus Classés. In order to make changes required by new legislation, the third classification was only published in 1986. In fact the “Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé” and “Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé” appellations no longer complied with the European Community’s definition of an AOC and only served to identify estates that featured in the list. The French decree of 13 January 1984 put things right, by correctly delimiting the Saint-Emilion and Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appellations and attaching the rules that set the conditions required to be able to use the terms “Grand Cru Classé” and “Premier Grand Cru Classé”. The third classification appeared on 23 May 1986. It included 11 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 63 Grands Crus Classés. The 1996 classification featured 13 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 55 Grands Crus Classés. The 2006 classification The next classification was made public on 12 December 2006 and led to a number of legal battles. It was attacked by some candidates who had not been recognised in the lists, so the Administrative Court suspended its official approval until it was re-established several months later by the Council of State. This was then opposed and further remedies were sought in law, and as the situation turned steadily more sour, the legislator was required to calm things down with a new law dated 12 May 2009.
An evolving Classification - regularly revising previous Classifications
Article 65 of this law made it possible up to and including the 2011 harvest for the wines classified in 1996 and for those recently included in the 2006 classification to use the terms “Grand Cru Classé” or “Premier Grand Cru Classé” on their labels. However, this legal process was a severe wake-up call for the appellation and the authorities, and triggered a series of reactions that aimed to avoid this kind of imbroglio in future. The estates strove more than ever before to achieve excellence, while the authorities and INAO began to completely re-think the way the next classification would be organised. The fruit of all this reflection was the set of rules for the classification of wines of the 2012 vintage, which was published in the Official Journal on 16 June 2011 (see Attachment 6). In order to take into account all the issues and observations resulting from the classification process applied in 2006, INAO and the Saint-Emilion Wine Council decided to place the entire new classification under the authority of INAO, which from then on supervised all steps in its implementation. To generate a new classification, the 2011 rules set out a series of straightforward principles, which were designed to strengthen the new procedure.
A commission officially entitled the “Classification Commission of the classified wines of the Saint- Emilion Grand Cru appellation” was made responsible for ensuring that the whole procedure took place according to the rules. The Commission was made up of seven recognised actors in the winegrowing world, who were nominated by the National Committee of Wines and Brandies and who came from outside Saint- Emilion in order to avoid any conflict of interest. On the Commission sat Mr. TINLOT, Chairman, and Messrs. BRONZO, FAURE-BRAC, VINET, BRUGNON, DROUHIN and GUIGAL. This Commission organised the constitution of the list of classified properties which was to be submitted to the National Committee of INAO. Application process Since the Saint-Emilion classification evolves over time and is periodically reviewed, all the properties wishing to be taken into account as candidates for the 2012 classification were required to lodge an application with INAO by 30 September 2011 at the latest. This requirement was the same for both previously classified properties and candidates who had the ambition to join the list.
A new outsourced Classification supervised by IANO and the Ministry of Agriculture
Each candidate had to support its application with an extremely detailed and comprehensive set of support documents in order to be able to use the Grand Cru Classé or Premier Grand Cru Classé designations. 1 The documentation had to include: - A precise indication of the land used by the estate with a commitment not to modify its boundaries without prior authorisation from INAO - Proof of the estate’s reputation and the means used to develop it, including reference to the promotion carried out in France and abroad, the management of visits by members of the public and participation in wine tourism - Information on the methods of distribution used and prices practiced - A description of all the technical factors contributing to the excellence of the wines produced - Reference to any other extra aspect that may be useful to the Commission in its deliberations.
Examination of applications
In order to examine fully all the applications, to carry out all the inspections on the estates and to organise the tasting of approximately one thousand samples taken, the Classification Commission decided to enlist the support of two recognised certifying bodies: Qualisud and Bureau Veritas Certification (formerly Qualité France). For several months, all properties were painstakingly visited and all the factors contributing to the excellence of the wines submitted as defined in the rules were assessed: terroirs, soil types, vine husbandry and cellar practices, equipment used, traceablity, accommodation or reception capacities, market channels, wine prices, press reviews, reputation, etc. Each applicant property was submitted to a complete 360-degree in-depth study of its circumstances. This new procedure also placed great importance on the tasting of the candidate wines. In order to assess their level of quality and consistency, a panel of expert tasters assessed 10 vintages of the properties applying for Grand Cru Classé status and 15 vintages of the estates requesting authorisation to use the “Premier Grand Cru Classé” designation.2 The panel made up of qualified tasters was placed under the control of the certifying body. A training course, specifically designed for the purposes of the classification, was given by a recognised university professor, so that each taster could be made aware of the diversity of terroirs, as well as the characteristics and exceptional features of wines from the appellation. To ensure that all wines were handled perfectly equally, they were served blind by the glass in very strict conditions. All the points assessed by the certifying bodies and submitted to the Classification Commission generated scores, which then counted towards a final grade as follows:
For Grands Crus Classés: Tasting - 50% of the final score Reputation (promotion, distribution, value) - 20% of the final score 2012 Classification of Saint-Emilion Wines - press kit Saint-Emilion Wine Council 6 Estate and terroirs (land boundaries, uniformity, terroirs) - 20% of the final score Estate practices (husbandry and wine making) - 10% of the final score For Premiers Grands Crus Classés: Tasting - 30% of the final score Reputation (promotion, distribution, value) - 35% of the final score Estate and terroirs (land boundaries, uniformity, terroirs) - 30% of the final score Estate practices (husbandry and wine making) - 5% of the final score A minimum score of 14 out of 20 was required to be submitted for classification as a Grand Cru Classé, while an overall score of 16 out of 20 was necessary to acquire the Premier Grand Cru Classé title. It is important to note that only estates which were accepted at Grand Cru Classé level, were allowed to apply for Premier Grand Cru Classé status.
Based on all this information, the Commission was able to establish an initial provisional list. All the applicants, who had not achieved a score high enough to be submitted for classification, were advised of their results by letter. They were given two weeks to defend the areas, where they had been found to be weak before the Classification Commission in order to add further arguments on points that had not been sufficiently explained. This respect of the rule regarding strict equality in the treatment of all applications enabled the process from the outset to take place in extremely positive conditions recognised by the candidates and in total serenity. At the end of ten months of painstaking, very professional work, the Classification Commission was able to prepare the list of the 2012 classification, which was submitted for approval to the National Wines Committee of INAO on 6 September 2012 and subsequently accepted. It now remains for the Ministries of Agriculture and Consumption to officialise the classification with a ministerial ruling. Le 2012 classification recognises the excellence of 82 properties: 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 64 Grands Crus Classés. The Classification Commission decided to award 4 properties with the distinction of Premier Grand Cru Classé A in view of the extent of their reputation and the exceptional ageing potential of their wines.
CLASSIFICATION LIST PROPOSED BY THE CLASSIFICATION COMMISSION « APPELLATION D’ORIGINE CONTRÔLEE » SAINT-EMILION GRAND CRU PREMIERS GRANDS CRUS CLASSES : (in alphabetical order)
Château Angélus (A), Clos Fourtet, Château Ausone (A), Château la Gaffelière, Château Beauséjour (héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse), Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot, La Mondotte, Château Bélair-Monange, Château Pavie (A), Château Canon, Château Pavie Macquin, Château Canon la Gaffelière, Château Troplong Mondot, Château Cheval Blanc (A), Château Trottevieille, Château Figeac, Château Valandrau.
GRANDS CRUS CLASSES (in alphabetical order)
Château l’Arrosée, Château Fleur Cardinale, Château Monbousquet, Château Balestard la Tonnelle, Château La Fleur Morange, Château Moulin du Cadet, Château Barde-Haut, Château Fombrauge, Clos de l’Oratoire, Château Bellefont-Belcie,r Château Fonplégade, Château Pavie Decesse, Château Bellevue, Château Fonroque, Château Peby Faugères, Château Berliquet, Château Franc Mayne, Château Petit Faurie de Soutard, Château Cadet-Bon, Château Grand Corbin, Château de Pressac, Château Capdemourlin, Château Grand Corbin-Despagne, Château le Prieuré, Château le Chatelet, Château Grand Mayne, Château Quinault l’Enclos, Château Chauvin, Château les Grandes Murailles, Château Ripeau, Château Clos de Sarpe, Château Grand-Pontet, Château Rochebelle, Château la Clotte, Château Guadet, Château Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie, Château la Commanderie, Château Haut-Sarpe, Clos Saint-Martin, Château Corbin, Clos des Jacobins, Château Sansonnet, Château Côte de Baleau, Couvent des Jacobins, Château la Serre, Château la Couspaude, Château Jean Faure, Château Soutard, Château Dassault, Château Laniote, Château Tertre Daugay, Château Destieux, Château Larmande, Château la Tour Figeac, Château la Dominique, Château Laroque, Château Villemaurine, Château Faugères, Château Laroze, Château Yon-Figeac, Château Faurie de Souchard, Clos la Madeleine, Château de Ferrand, Château la Marzell.
Supporting items Applications must have the following supporting items: – A list of the land plots that make up the estate today with a list of the modifications, which may have taken place in the last ten years, as well as a description of the terroirs concerned – An undertaking not to change the delimitation of the land occupied by the vineyards from which the wines presented with the name of the classified cru come from, in the coming ten years without a reasoned request to this effect having been agreed to by the National Committee on AOCs of wines and alcoholic beverages, and brandies within INAO – Any proof demonstrating the reputation of the estate, the way the wines are distributed, the sale prices observed and quotations, the press kit, promotional campaigns, activities connected with wine tourism, enhancement of the site and accessibility for the general public to the estate’s facilities – The volumes produced or sold of wines bearing the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Appellation with a name connected to the estate – Technical factors, including a description of the winery, cultivation methods and environmental measures on the estate – A cheque to the amount of the administrative fees with the name of the INAO accountant as payee. Article 5 Requirements for applications to be taken into account The application must include at least the items listed in Article 4. The estates for which an application has been made must also meet the following conditions: – To have regularly used the name of the cru for which classification is requested: for the last ten years in the case of application for GCC status and for the last fifteen years in the case of applications for Premier GCC status. This may only be waived after a reasoned request to this effect has been agreed to by the National Committee on AOCs of wines and alcoholic beverages, and brandies within INAO – To have produced during these periods at least an average of 50% of the wines from the plot(s) of land identified in the supporting documents of the application, for sale with the name of the cru for which classification is requested – To have a winery that is used exclusively for making and maturing the wines from the plot(s) of land identified in the supporting documents of the application – To bottle the wines on the estate Compliance with these conditions is checked by INAO departments. If these departments consider that the conditions have not been met, they inform the applicants, who have one month following their reception of the letter from INAO to respond with their observations or add items in support of their application. When this period is up, INAO’s decision is notified to them. Article 6 Examination of applications The commission has at its disposal the applications, supporting items and wine samples of the applicants. These samples are held under INAO’s responsibility in secure, air-conditioned premises.
It is left to the discretion of the Commission to select from the vintages that have been sampled, but this selection is identical for all applicants and cannot exceed the last ten years for GCC applications and the last fifteen years for Premier GCC candidates. All the vintages sampled are available in bottles at the estates. The Commission reserves the right to check that samples are traceable, and in particular by carrying out analyses on samples from points of sale. It may ask INAO, the Defence and Management Organisation (ODG), the applicant or any other concerned party for any information it deems necessary. The Commission calculates the score attributed to applications using the following criteria and weights: For GCC status: 1. Level of quality and consistency of the wines as evaluated by tasting the samples (50% of the final score) 2. Reputation assessed with regard to national and international recognition of the wine of the estate, to estate enhancement, to promotion and the channels of distribution (20% of the final score) 3. Description of the estate in terms of the plots of land that make it up, the uniformity of the unit(s) cultivated and topographical, geological and soil analyses (20% of the final score) 4. Estate management in terms of winegrowing and winemaking practices as evaluated by taking into account the grape varieties used, how the vineyard is organised and managed, how batches from different plots are traced during vinification and the conditions in which the wines are made and aged (10% of the final score) All applications achieving final scores of 14 out of 20 or higher are submitted for GCC status. For Premier GCC status: 1. Level of quality and consistency of the wines as evaluated from the tasting results and assessment of their ageing potential (30% of the final score) 2. Reputation assessed with regard to national and international recognition of the wine of the estate, and to outstanding estate enhancement (35% of the final score) 3. Description of the estate in terms of the plots of land that make it up, the uniformity of the unit(s) cultivated and topographical, geological and soil analyses (30% of the final score) 4. Estate management in terms of winegrowing and winemaking practices as evaluated by taking into account the grape varieties used, how the vineyard is organised and managed, how batches from different plots are traced during vinification and the conditions in which the wines are made and aged (5% of the final score). All applications achieving final scores of 16 out of 20 or higher are submitted for Premier GCC status. The commission may award distinctions (A and B) to wines submitted for Premier GCC status in view of their reputation and ageing potential. This Commission will enlist the support of one or several third party independent bodies, respectively responsible for organising the tasting of sampled wines and for assisting the Commission, when requested, to carry out documentary checks and verifications on the estates’ premises. This/these third party body(ies) are duly appointed by the Director of INAO. This/these body(ies) carry out their tasks in partnership with INAO departments. The wines are tasted by a panel of expert tasters appointed by the third party body responsible for organising tasting. Article 7 Notification of results and appeal The Classification Commission’s proposals mentioned in Article 2 above are sent to the applicants by the services of INAO. Applicants have a period of fifteen days following notification to request reexamination of their application; the wines involved are however not tasted again. Applicants may request an appointment with the Commission. The Classification Commission takes a decision within forty-five days of receiving a request for reexamination.