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French Winemakers Lose Their Status

When I saw this article I just started to laugh.  I love French wines but I also know that many of the premium classifications are decades, sometimes centuries old so I don't give it much heed.  I am also not a collector - I am a drinker.  Paying $30 more per bottle because it is a Classe A makes no sense to me then the Nin du Pays (Country Wine literally) is similar in flavor and a fraction of the price. So I LOVE that St. Emilion is eliminating the rankings.  It means more affordable wines for all and a more balanced approach to newer wineries who can sometimes produce a better wine than the centuries old pedigreed wines. 

Collectors should rush out right now and pick up the last of the fancy stuff before its gone!  But remember,just because the label is gone doesn't mean the insides of the bottles are any less delicious.

BORDEAUX, France (AFP) - "Just as we are about to start putting the 2006 vintage into bottles, we have to cancel all the labels and all the cases and re-do them," said Christine Valette, owner of Chateau Troplong-Mondot, recently awarded the second highest rank of St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe.

"I am in shock. The team at the chateau is in shock. I never imagined this could happen," added Valette, who said she has spent the last 20 years working toward winning the prized title.

The ranking, which applies only to the St Emilion region and is reassessed every 10 years, consists of three classifications -- Premier Grand Cru Classe A, Premier Grand Cru Classe B and Grand Cru Classe.

The court said it was cancelling the St Emilion classification because it believed the system used to rank the wines after a tasting was not fully impartial.

The A category has only ever been awarded to two chateaux, the much sought after wines of Ausone and Cheval Blanc, while examples from the B category include chateaux Angelus, Clos Fourtet and Troplong Mondot.

The rankings are estimated to boost the price of the wine by about 30 percent, and thus also affect property prices.

A spokesperson for the St Emilion Wine Union (Conseil des Vins de St Emilion) described the situation as "serious."

The Union is awaiting a decision from INAO (Institut National des Appellations d'Origine), the government body that manages French wine classifications, and the French Agriculture Minister as to whether they will appeal the ruling within the allowed time period of two months.

But legal sources said an appeals process could take up to two years.

For many in Bordeaux however the situation without the St Emilion classification system would be impossible.

"The whole situation is ... idiotic and absurd, they can't stop the 60 or more chateaux that have the rankings from using them," said Jean Baptiste Bourotte of Audy, a Bordeaux wine merchant who had just heard the news.

"I don't see how we could sell the wine."

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