Wednesday, May 1, 2013

St. Emilion: Shaken and Stirred

We view France's ranking and classification system for wine as strong, reliable and mostly above reproach.  I even commented about single vineyards not being as relevant in the U.S. as in Burgundy in my last post.  However, there have been crises in France's long history of wine.  This one may not rank in the upper echelon but it certainly has stirred up some emotions.  
Wine Spectator has published a story about a lawsuit regarding the 2012 reclassification of St. Emilion.  One of the biggest complaints of Bordeaux in the Medoc (the Left Bank) remains the fact that the ranking are based on the classification of 1855!  You remember 1855, right?  The year the Panama Railroad first connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The year David Livingstone became the first European to see Victoria Falls.  
At least St. Emilion classified their appellation, on the Right Bank, in 1954 and updates it every decade or so.  The most recent has spurred a lawsuit, alleging a fix in determining the rankings.  The fact that shenanigans may have occurred is hardly surprising to me.  Get a higher ranking and, with rare exception, you can charge more for your wine.  Check out some first growth prices if you doubt this at all.  
The reason I mention this controversy at all is for this paragraph from the article:
"According to the lawyer, the classification was inexplicably weighted in favor of the Premiers Grands Crus—the tasting component only counted for 30 percent of the final grade for the Premier Grands Crus, yet counted for 50 percent of the final grade for the Grand Cru Classé châteaus."
Go ahead, read that again...let it sink in.  The actual wine only counts for half and less than a third of the final ranking.  Never mind that the higher ranking counted the tasting less, focus on how little it means to either one.  This is why I don't buy Bordeaux...or designer clothes or shoes.  My money is spent on what is in the bottle, not what other people think about me based on what's on the outside of the bottle.  
Bordeaux continues to stumble and the ones that suffer are not the big producers with legions of status-seeking buyers but the small operations, perhaps making truly good quality wine at a good price but without the benefit of a good lobbyist.

No comments:

Post a Comment