The classification of Saint Emilion, a true slapstick

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The meandering story of the new classification of Saint Emilion seems to be a story without an end. It has long since past the limit between reasonable and ridiculous. The classification is supposed to be reviewed every ten years, the last time in 2006. Here’s the story in (very) short:

  • In 2006 a new classification is announced with a few upwards moves and (fewer) demotions that replaces the one from 1996
  • A few discontent chateau owners make a case in court against the new classification
  • They win the court case and the classification is annulled. The 1996 classification rules.
  • A second court re-instates the classification. The 2006 classification rules.
  • A third court re-annuls it. The previous classification is now supposed to be valid. The 1996 classification rules.
  • Unhappy chateau owners, who were elevated in 2006 and now are deprived of the candy, don’t give in but take it to the Senate. In the senate the 2006 classification is sneakishly introduced as a paragraph in a new “law of finances”, and voilà, the 2006 one is valid again. We’re now in November 2008. The 2006 classification rules.
  • The Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) rejects the new law (the piece on the classification) arguing that a wine region classification has noting to do with a law on financing and should not be there.. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? December 2008. The 1996 classification rules.
  • The senators (or the chatelains) don’t give up so easily: on January 8 the 2006 classification is made part of a proposal for a new law on financial stimulus… Will the 2006 classification rule again?

— So here we are. Next steps:

  • Have the economic stimulus law voted in the Senate
  • Make sure the Constitutional Council accepts it
  • Cross your fingers and wait

It is hard to believe one’s eyes. The only thing that they seem to succeed in doing is making the whole classification, the chateau owners, the Saint Emilion region and all of Bordeaux look utterly ridiculous. And in the mean time they are loosing market share. Perhaps one can hope that this tragicomedy with bring something good: that the Bordeaux classification system will loose any little remaining credibility that it may have. And perhaps that the chateau owners finally will understand that it is the wine consumer who can judge the quality of the wine, not an elitist, more or less partial selection committee. Read more: www.winealley.com and www.vitisphere.com

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