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The new Saint Emilion Classification

All the details and a critical review

Saint Emilion has just announced the new classification of the chateaux. It has been a long time coming; the classification should be renewed every 10 years but this has been much delayed due to legal wrangling. The new classification includes some substantial changes but perhaps not dramatic surprises, as Bordeaux expert Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider explains. At the end of the article you can also find the full and detailed list of the new classification.

You can read more about the Saint Emilion chateaux  and also much more general info on the regions and chateaux of Bordeaux on Jeff Leve’s Wine Cellar Insider

1. Premier Grand Cru Classé A: Pavie and Angélus join Ausone and Cheval Blanc and Parker is vindicated

The 2012 Saint Emilion Classification is official. It is completed. It is controversial.  It is going to make some people happy. Other people, not so much. Numerous chateaux have been elevated. For the first time since the St. Emilion Classification was created in 1955, two chateaux were added to the list of Premier Grand Cru Classé A.

Joining Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc at the top of the pyramid are Chateau Angelus and Chateau Pavie in the 2012 St. Emilion Classification! Both wines are great! Bravo! They both worked hard to earn their new status. It is also nice to see because Robert Parker spent so much time sharing his enthusiasm on both wines, especially, Pavie. It looks like he has been vindicated on that call. However, this news is already generating a lot of talk among wine lovers.

The news of the changes to the 2012 St. Emilion Classification was released a little at a time. For many people, this was confusing. If the information was available, why not release it in full? What happened is, each property in Saint Emilion received their official notification of the 2012 St. Emilion Classification before any major announcement was made. At that point, it was up to the individual chateau if they wanted to share and promote their news or not. The complete list of all the changes to the 2012 St. Emilion classification became available September 6.

Chateau Ausone, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Ausone, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

Does the classification matter? No, and yes

Does it matter? To the majority of American consumers, not a lot. In fact, it will not change what most consumers think of the wines. People are going to continue paying what they think the wines are worth. Keep in mind that Valandraud and La Mondotte were not classified until today. Yet, they were already two of the most expensive wines in St. Emilion.

On the other end of the spectrum, Trottevieille and Magdelaine were considered First Growths, and both wines sold for less money than many lesser classified growths.

That does not mean that the 2012 Saint Emilion Classification is not important. It is. And it is an honor for all the chateau that produced wine at the level required for an upgrade in their status. For consumers worried that prices will increase for their favorite wines, that probably will not happen.

Chateau Cheval Blanc, its vineyard and a road, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Cheval Blanc, its vineyard and a road, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux , copyright BKWine Photography

2. Premier Grand Cru Classé B

The 2012 St. Emilion Classification is much more than the Premier Grand Cru Classé A wines. Although that is big news! Equally important is discovering which chateaux were elevated to the Premier Grand Cru Classé B category.

When the St. Emilion Classification was first created, a total of 12 chateaux earned the right to label their wines as Premier Grand Cru Classé. Today that number has grown, and rightfully so. The level of quality being produced in St. Emilion has never been higher!

While it is easy to quibble over which chateau deserve to be labeled as Premier Grand Cru Classé B, and who should be demoted, overall, the wines being made in this category are at their best, sublime expressions of St. Emilion. The producers elevated to this category worked hard to get there. They are all stunning wines, from great estates and passionate about wine.

Chateau Figeac, in the vineyard, Saint Emilion Bordeaux

Chateau Figeac, in the vineyard, Saint Emilion Bordeaux , copyright BKWine Photography

It is nice to see Jean-Luc Thunevin and Murielle Andraud get the recognition they deserve for Valandraud. Stephan Neipperg, with his approach to vineyard management has been making great wine at La Mondotte and Canon La Gaffelière. The dynamic duo of Stephane Derenoncourt and Nicolas Thienpont took Larcis Ducasse from an underperforming terroir and turned it into a strong and affordable, quality St. Emilion. They all deserve their new status.

The following producers were elevated to Premier Grand Cru Classé B status in the 2012 St. Emilion Classification making a total of 14 chateaux with the designation of Premier Grand Cru Classé B status:

  • Chateau Canon La Gaffeliere
  • Chateau Larcis Ducasse
  • La Mondotte
  • Valandraud

Chateau Magdelaine is no longer part of the classification of St. Emilion. The vines are now merged into Chateau Belair-Monange, which ironically, allows the vines to retain their First Growth status. Life can be funny like that sometimes.

3. Grand Cru Classé

Numerous changes in the 2012 St. Emilion Classification have also taken place in the Grand Cru Classé category. Today 63 estates share the honor of Grand Cru Classe status. The whopping 17 newest editions to Grand Cru Classé are:

  • Chateau Barde Haut
  • Chateau Cote de Baleau
  • Chateau Le Chatelet
  • Chateau Clos de Sarpe
  • Clos La Madeleine
  • Chateau La Commanderie
  • Chateau Faugeres
  • Chateau de Ferrand
  • Chateau Fombrauge
  • Chateau La Fleur Morange
  • Chateau Jean Faure
  • Chateau La Marzelle
  • Chateau Peby Faugeres
  • Chateau de Pressac
  • Chateau Quinault l’Enclos
  • Chateau Rochebelle
  • Chateau Sansonnet

Eight chateaux that were demoted from the 2006 St. Emilion Classification were once again awarded Grand Cru Classe status in the 2012 St. Emilion Classification:

  • Chateau Bellevue
  • Chateau Cadet Bon
  • Chateau Faurie de Souchard
  • Chateau Guadet – Previously known as Chateau Guadet Saint Julien
  • Chateau Petit Faurie Soutard
  • Chateau Tertre Daugay which is now Chateau Quintus
  • Chateau Villemaurine
  • Chateau Yon-Figeac
View over the town Saint Emilion from the Chateau Ausone vineyard, Bordeaux

View over the town Saint Emilion from the Chateau Ausone vineyard, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

The losers! Only three?

The most interesting statistic from this entire reclassification is perhaps the following: a total of four chateaux were demoted in the 2012 St. Emilion Classification.

Magdelaine from the position of First Growth and three from Grand Cru Classe status. I love Bordeaux wine. I want everyone to succeed. I spend a lot of my time in Bordeaux. The only thing I spend more on for Bordeaux is my money. I’ve tasted most of the wines on this page multiple times and several vintages. Many of the wines that earned Grand Cru Classe status in the 2012 St. Emilion Classification are stunning. But every wine on this list is not close to equal quality.

I find it shocking that only 3 chateau were demoted from Grand Cru Classe status and one from Premier Grand Cru Classé A. But, that is the conclusion the impartial committee arrived at. The following three estates lost their Grand Cru Classe status.

  • Chateau Bergat
  • Chateau Cadet Piola
  • Chateau Corbin Michotte

For history buffs, this does not set a record for the number of Classified growths in Saint Emilion at one time. The 2012 St. Emilion Classification has 81 members, while the Classification of 1969 had 84 chateaux included. While it was previously agreed on that properties would not contest the latest round of classifications I would not be surprised to see some properties file suit, claiming the results were unfair. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jeff Leve is an expert on Bordeaux wines. He writes The Wine Cellar Insider and is a moderator of Robert Parker’s website.

More pictures further down.

Full list of the new Saint Emilion Classification

Changes are indicated by (*). Chateaux that were demoted in the (failed) 2006 classification have been reinstated and are indicated by (**).

Premiers Grands Crus Classés A

  • Château Angélus (A) (*)
  • Château Ausone (A)
  • Château Cheval Blanc (A)
  • Château Pavie (A) (*)

Premiers Grands Crus Classés B

  • Château Beauséjour (héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse)
  • Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot
  • Château Bélair-Monange
  • Château Canon
  • Château Canon la Gaffelière (*)
  • Château Figeac
  • Clos Fourtet
  • Château la Gaffelière
  • Château Larcis Ducasse (*)
  • La Mondotte (*)
  • Château Pavie Macquin
  • Château Troplong Mondot
  • Château Trottevieille
  • Château Valandraud (*)

Grands Crus Classés

  • Château l’Arrosée
  • Château Balestard la Tonnelle
  • Château Barde-Haut (*)
  • Château Bellefont-Belcier
  • Château Bellevue (**)
  • Château Berliquet
  • Château Cadet-Bon (**)
  • Château Capdemourlin
  • Château le Chatelet (*)
  • Château Chauvin
  • Château Clos de Sarpe (*)
  • Château la Clotte
  • Château la Commanderie (*)
  • Château Corbin
  • Château Côte de Baleau (*)
  • Château la Couspaude
  • Château Dassault
  • Château Destieux
  • Château la Dominique
  • Château Faugères (*)
  • Château Faurie de Souchard (**)
  • Château de Ferrand (*)
  • Château Fleur Cardinale
  • Château La Fleur Morange (*)
  • Château Fombrauge (*)
  • Château Fonplégade
  • Château Fonroque
  • Château Franc Mayne
  • Château Grand Corbin
  • Château Grand Corbin-Despagne
  • Château Grand Mayne
  • Château les Grandes Murailles
  • Château Grand-Pontet
  • Château Guadet (**)
  • Château Haut-Sarpe
  • Clos des Jacobins
  • Couvent des Jacobins
  • Château Jean Faure (*)
  • Château Laniote
  • Château Larmande
  • Château Laroque
  • Château Laroze
  • Clos la Madeleine (*)
  • Château la Marzelle (*)
  • Château Monbousquet
  • Château Moulin du Cadet
  • Clos de l’Oratoire
  • Château Pavie Decesse
  • Château Peby Faugères (*)
  • Château Petit Faurie de Soutard (**)
  • Château de Pressac (*)
  • Château le Prieuré
  • Château Quinault l’Enclos (*)
  • Château Ripeau
  • Château Rochebelle (*)
  • Château Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie
  • Clos Saint-Martin
  • Château Sansonnet (*)
  • Château la Serre
  • Château Soutard
  • Château Tertre Daugay (Quintus) (**)
  • Château la Tour Figeac
  • Château Villemaurine (**)
  • Château Yon-Figeac (**)

Chateaux that have been eliminated from the classification

  • Chateau Bergat
  • Chateau Cadet Piola
  • Chateau Corbin Michotte
  • Chateau Magdeleine (the vines are now merged into Chateau Belair-Morange that is Premiers Grands Crus Classés B)

You can read more on several of the Saint Emilion chateaux on Jeff’s site The Wine Cellar Insider:

You can find more pictures from the Saint Emilion chateau and vineyards on BKWine Photography.

And if you want to get to know the Saint Emilion wines and vineyards more intimately you can come on a wine tour that will take you to some of the best and most interesting chateaux in Bordeaux with BKWine.
Clos la Madeleine, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Clos la Madeleine, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

Bud burst on the vine in a vineyard in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Bud burst on the vine in a vineyard in Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

Chateau Pavie, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Pavie, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

Chateau Angelus, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

Chateau Angelus, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

At sunset Chateau Trottevieille, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux

At sunset Chateau Trottevieille, Saint Emilion, Bordeaux, copyright BKWine Photography

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