Appellations and brand names?
Does it serve any useful purpose to have appellations and classifications (by the way, do you know the difference between the two?)? Not an easy question to answer. Yes, it can be useful with some consumer guidance that helps to find a good wine. But on the other hand it does not always function very well. Take Burgundy as an example. It is clearly more important to choose a good producer, and buy a simple “AC Bourgogne” rather than forking out for a Premier Cru or Grand Cru from a producer that you know nothing about. And you will save a few cents in doing it. Or take the most classic example of all, the 1855 classification of Bordeaux. It might not be entirely decisive for the price of a bottle but it does make a world of difference in prestige (and price) if you’re among the top tiers in the classification or if your at the bottom – or not even in it (oh my god!). And if you take a look behind the scene? In reality, the 1855 classification is a ranking of brand names on not of much else. Oh no, we here you say. It’s terroir. Well, no, it isn’t. Let’s take a closer look. It is the actual chateau (the building if you wish) that is classified “1/2/3/4/5 Cru Classé”. Not the vineyard. In other words, a chateau can buy (or sell) land without it affecting the classification. You could, for instance, buy land (within the same appellation) and double the vineyard area. Where is then the “soul” in being, say, a second Cru? Well, it certainly is not in the “terroir”. Some (clever) winemakers have bought a chateau without vineyards (but that had vineyards when the classification was made long ago). and then they have bought land (with the right appellation, but not necessarily the land that happened to belong to the chateau when it was classified) and all of a sudden the have a wine producing classified chateau. Tradition? Terroir?…
Perhaps the most thoughtful said about classification was what Laurent Cogombles (together with his wife owner of Chateau Bouscaut and president of the Syndicat responsible for reviewing the classification) told us once on the subject of the reclassification of Graves. We asked how they will come to some agreement on a new classification of the Graves wineries. He said that, yes, it’s a very good and difficult question. But that perhaps the best and truest answer to a ranking is finally what the customers are prepared to pay for the wine. An unusually well formulated and customer orientated comment in a wine district today. Which in a way brings us back to 1855 and its classification, which was primarily a ranking based on price.
But today, what could be the real importance of the price those wines fetched in the first half of the 19th century? And if it is the price that is the main factor, what good is then the classification? Isn’t it easier to just read the price tag?
Worth thinking about!
Our wine tours
We are putting a big effort this year into developing our English language wine tours and our tours with more educational focus. If you are interested in our tours, or if you have some ideas or suggestions on the tours, or if you might be interested in some kind of collaboration around wine and food tours – we want to hear from you!
So we’re really glad to be able to introduce to you Kay, a new member to our team. Kay Steggles has joined us to help with the organisation of our growing wine tour business. Kay has been working hard on our summer tour to Bordeaux June 6-10 and has already posted a new one page printable flyer with all the relevant details for those interested in joining us. In the coming weeks you can expect to see further information regarding our complete English language tour programme for 2007. Please feel free to contact Kay for further information on the tours or, if you have a suggestion of your own for a wine tour we are happy to discuss a tour specially designed around a specific requirement. Contact kay.steggles at bkwine dot com (you know, it’s this thing called spam we’re trying to avoid…). Or you can of course contact me too, as always!
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