CRU BOURGEOIS 2015 VINTAGE RELEASE AND UPDATES

The term Bourgeois originated in the early fifteenth century when the inhabitants of the ‘town’ (Bourg) of Bordeaux were named Bourgeois. Originally tradesmen and artisans, over a period of time, they amassed wealth through trade and commerce, acquiring properties that later came to be known as Crus de Bourgeois. By the 17th century they were heavily investing in vineyards and building up their own wine production. The power of Cru Bourgeois was also mighty enough to sail through the turbulent phases in the early twentieth century during the world wars and post war depression, and did so steadfastly, keeping the name and quality of the Cru alive. Unfortunately, the dawn of official classification in 1932, resulted in bitter legal battles and criticisms waged by its trade members, which tarnished the market image of Cru Bourgeois (more so within the trade network), that it was seeking hard to attain, having already been over-shadowed by the 1855 classification of the classed growth producers.

The sequence of events that took place in the Cru Bourgeois world can be summarised below:

1932:  An official list of 444 Cru Bourgeois du Medoc created and registered with the Chamber of Commerce. No ministerial approval yet obtained.

1962: The “Union of the Cru Bourgeois du Medoc” created to promote the philosophy of Cru Bourgeois to produce quality wines at affordable prices for the public.

2003: Ministerial order obtained for classification of Cru Bourgeois where in 247 chateaux out of 490 received rankings under 

·      Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels,

·      Cru Bourgeois Supérieurs

·      Cru Bourgeois

However, the turning point comes around. Some of the chateaux that were demoted during this process went into legal appeal and demanded a repeal of this classification

2007: Administrative court in Bordeaux annulled the above classification. Official announcement made that it will not be used anymore.

2010: New procedures laid down for Cru Bourgeois labelling for chateaus from one of the 8 Medoc AOCs. Any Medoc wine could now apply for Cru Bourgeois but had to pass an annual rigorous tasting examination set by an independent jury and this had to be repeated for each and every vintage, so the name “Cru Bourgeois” will now be affiliated to a specific vintage of a chateau rather than the chateau itself. The first vintage that underwent this process was the 2008 vintage. The three sub classifications (Exceptionnels, Supérieur and regular Cru Bourgeois) replaced by a single “Cru Bourgeois” nomenclature.  Whilst this helped to iron out producer differences, a few of the Cru exceptionnels did end up feeling under appreciated and withdrew fully from any further applications.

Fast forward …..Goal 2020

While the 2008 labelling is being followed today, it has become increasingly onerous on the producers who observe that re-applying every year is taking a toll not only in terms of cost and time but also adding a huge administrative burden, taking time away from focused wine production. A feeling of insecurity is increasingly spreading in the minds of the chateau owners who feel this practice outweighs the benefits of the Cru all together. Over the last few years after having gone through many rounds of discussions, a new proposal is finally on its way to be implemented in 2020 to re-organise the Cru Bourgeois classification back to the chateaux level but this time with stringent guidelines that will need to be fulfilled for being accepted into the classification but once accepted, will be re-assessed on a holistic basis through a 5 year cycle instead of an annual tasting. This will hopefully streamline the classification guidelines and bring back stability to the chateaux as they will not need to repeat filing every year for tasting, instead can focus on quality wine production. The three-tier classification that used to exist before 2008 is proposed to be brought back as:

·      Cru Bourgeois Basic

·      Cru Bourgeois Supériure

·      Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel

As mentioned above, producers must fulfill a set of ‘quality guidelines’ that need to be demonstrated through documentation and records, all the way from the vineyard to the storage and distribution of wine.

To gain the Basic level appellation, wines that have succeeded in qualifying Cru Bourgeois every year since 2008 will get preferential allotment of Cru Bourgeois status. It is sufficient in this level that the wine to demonstrate a good fruit forward expressive style of wine with ease of drinking. Bottle ageing is not required to be demonstrated for this level.

To gain the higher level Supérieure/ Exceptionnel status following need to be displayed:

1)    Sustainable vineyard practice: Apart from stricter yield and focus on quality harvests and sorting, an HEV (High environmental value) certification is necessary to show that the vineyard is following environmentally friendly and sustainable farming while conserving natural resources.

2)    Responsible vinification and age-ability of resulting wines: Apart from stricter yields and quality farming, the winery must be upgraded even if following traditional methods of vinification making sure that equipments are energy efficient. A certain minimum level of ageing is also needed in order to make the wine more concentrated and mature in bottles for a considerable period, before releasing it into the market. Adequate infrastructure is needed for storage and ageing of the bottles. Site visits will be done once every 5 years to ensure that the producers upkeep these requirements and demonstrate commitment to upkeep the mission of Cru Bourgeois.

3)    Investment in distribution network: Producer must have a well-defined marketing strategy including brand promotion, press notes and price break-ups to prove their commitment to promoting the brand. In particular, pricing quoted must reflect the work that has gone behind producing quality wines.  All work involved in marketing and distribution must be recorded for review.

4)    Ageing potential through 5 vintages : As it is tough to judge ageability of wines within 1-2 years of release, producers must display 5 vintages between 2008 and 2016 for the jury to taste the stylistic expressions, gauge ageing gradations over time in order to make a long term decision on the evolution of the wine. This is a much more effective method rather than decision making based on one vintage as it works out to be a fair way to iron out vintage variations.

 Armelle Cruse, owner of Chateau du Taillan. Also Vice President of Alliance Des Crus Bourgeois (Photo credit: Sumi_Sumilier)

Armelle Cruse, owner of Chateau du Taillan. Also Vice President of Alliance Des Crus Bourgeois (Photo credit: Sumi_Sumilier)

In the words of Armelle Cruse, Vice President of Alliance Des Crus Bourgeois and owner of Chateau du Taillan (previously Cru Bourgeois Superieur), “To gain Cru Bourgeois is like achieving a Baccaulareate. It requires a deep level of dedication and commitment to our philosophy and mission but once the producer fulfils the guidelines, recognition is guaranteed”.

Armelle Cruse also added that with 78% ratification already achieved from the members, it is only a matter of a month or two before the ministerial approval come through. She understands the reason why some of the highly established crowning glories of Cru Bourgeois abandoned the classification in 2008 when the tier ranking was knocked off and comments, “The lack of recognition and inclusion that was felt by exceptionelle crus such Phelan Segur and Chasse-Spleen is what we seek to rectify in our new classification. We aim to bring back the prestige for the chateaux that rightly deserve it. At the same time, we want to welcome every quality producer to apply and gain stability through the new quality approach.”

Armelle concludes, “The progressive steps towards a new classification is intended to uplift the image of Cru Bourgeois and we are certain once the new classification comes into force, it will pave way to boost the reputation for the entire Bordeaux.”

As of now it is only a matter of time for the ministerial approval comes through for the new classification to take effect. Assuming no hurdles come through this time, let us hope for the Crus to take off smoothly….

Worthwhile knowing that while the Classified growth productions amount to no more than 5% of the total production, the purchasing power of which is lies in the hands of a fraction of aristocrats, Cru Bourgeois production has always been a very attractive proposition for the mighty price-conscious middle class and its influence has silently been increasing over the years. Cru Bourgeois amounts to 31% of Medoc’s total production, supplying wines at prices that are modest and attractive while offering a healthy balance between quality and quantity. With over 100 million bottles of Bordeaux wines produced each year, the message that “Cru Bourgeois” intends to spread is that notwithstanding the classified growths, the rest of Bordeaux is equally capable of producing quality products at price-savvy points, one that is crucial in preserving the sanctity of modern world demand and supply economics. In Cru Bourgeois, lies the answer to the realistic aspirations of Bordeaux lovers, those who wish for affordability and accessibility rather than self- indulgent investment pleasures.

 

2015 VINTAGE RELEASED ACROSS EUROPE IN SEPTEMBER 2017
 

Between May and July 2017, all the producers were asked to submit their wines for rating by Cru Bourgeois and on 19th Sep 2017 was when the final list of producers who had made to Cru Bourgeois 2017, was published and released across Bordeaux, Paris, London and Brussels.  A very well organised 2015 release, there was help in hand at all appellation tables to guide the trade through the producers.

 2015 Official Selecttion Crus Bourgeois du Medoc release in London in September 2017 (Photo credit: Sumi_Sumilier)

2015 Official Selecttion Crus Bourgeois du Medoc release in London in September 2017 (Photo credit: Sumi_Sumilier)

 

REVIEW OF CRU BOURGEOIS APPELLATIONS FOR 2015:

 Logo release by Cru Bourgeois (Photo credit: Cru Bourgeois Publication)

Logo release by Cru Bourgeois (Photo credit: Cru Bourgeois Publication)

271 chateaux were selected officially to be part of Cru Bourgeois du Médoc list of 2015. Around 187 were presented in London to which I was invited for the formal release and tasting. The new logo was also released for Cru Bourgeois during this time. Designed by Michaël Hussar (aka Mika), a well-known graphic designer and illustrator, the aim is to use a mix of bright splashing colours to bring out the brilliance, energy and fruitiness of the wines while the earthy browns relate the wines to their land and the soils that go on to creating the Cru Bourgeois.

2015 definitely was an outstanding year for Cru Bourgeois and the resulting wines are rich and ripe with intense deep black berries and black cherry notes but also equally zingy and playful. The tannins are still evolving but the ripeness is key that stands out the vintage and offers a great choice of selections for consumers. A review of the appellations are as follows:

 

 

MARGAUX: Has a plush feel to its texture while it also displays some soft floral aromas. Here is what I recommend:

Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere

Grape: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot

UK availability: Private Cellar £28.50

 

SAINT ESTEPHE: Mildly restrained and is still evolving in the bottle but in particular displayed dark fruit notes and the highest levels of acidity amongst the appellations, a fact that can also be attributed to the specific soils in the . My recommendations :

Chateau Laffitte-Carcasset

Grape: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc

UK availability: Fine and Rare Wines £20-£30

Chateau Clauzet

Grape varieties: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

UK availability: Goedhuis £23

 

LISTRAC-MEDOC: Outstanding in terms of concentration of fruit combined with intensely aromatic expressions, subtle complex tones already evolving. All in all, the best bargain wines, showing a healthy balance between price and quality. My recommendations :

Chateau Fonréaud

Grape varieties: 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

UK availability: Goedhuis, Tanners, Berry Brothers £18-£20

Chateau Lestage

Grape Varieties: 62% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot

UK availability: Goedhuis, Tanners, Berry Brothers £17

HAUT MEDOC: Producers of this appellation were the most consistent in terms of expression and wine quality. Very well endowed full bodied, fruit forward wines with soft rich and ripe tannins, that can be easily enjoyed with dinner.  Attractive price tag too.

Chateau Cambon la Pelouse

Grape Varieties: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

UK availability: Sainsbury’s £13

Chateau Charmail

Grape Varieties: 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 11% Petit Verdot

UK availability: The Wine Society, Fortnum and Mason, Berry Brothers £20

Chateau Fontesteau

Grape Varieties: 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc

UK availability: ABS Wine agencies £22

Chateau de Malleret

Grape Varieties: 53% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc

UK availability: Premier Wines £21

 Chateau Peyredon Lagravette

Grape Varieties: 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot

UK availability: Enotria £20

Cheateau de Retout

Grape Varieties: 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot

UK availability: Vinothentic £15

Chateau du Taillan

Grape Varieties: 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc

PAUILLAC: Scored the highest in terms of spice notes although only two producers were selected from the region. Both display very classic Pauillac style : muscular and powerful expression. My recommendation :

Chateau Fonbadet

Grape varieties: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

UK availability:  Fine and Rare Wines/ Berry Brothers and Rudd £35

MOULIS: Delicate fruits, lean wines and while not distinct in character as compared to their neighbouring appellations, they do possess an easy drinking style with a well-rounded appeal.

MEDOC: Possessed the mightiest of the tannic structure, some a lot more chewy and grainier than the other, these wines could end up being the best in terms of ageing potential but at the moment they can happily be tucked away in the bottle. Acidity is softer than other appellations but fruit notes are vivid and the resulting structure is quite noteworthy.

My recommendations:

Chateau Tour Séran

Grape varieties: 65% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Cabernet Franc

UK availability: Cambridge Wine Merchants

Chateau Preuillac

Grape Varieties: 58% Merlot, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc

UK availability: Ellis of Richmond/ Society of Vintners £14

 Chateau Loudenne

Grape Varieties: 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Merlot

UK availability: Maison Marques et Domaines £25

For world wide availability, search www.wine-searcher.com