I love the change of seasons and a stroll through St. James’s park with the colour changes set the Autumnal tone for the 2010 Cru Bourgeois de Médoc tasting in St. James’s. It started with a really useful tutored, blind tasting with Stephen Brook and it reminded me of when I started in the trade, where underneath the aristocratic Cru Classé’s of the Médoc some excellent value could be had and the 2010 are showing real promise.
It is also worth noting that things are a little simpler now, with all selected wines being called ‘Cru Bourgeois’ after they are presented for a blind tasting 2 years after the harvest. Consequently, the wine is either ‘in’ or ‘out’ and this can change for each vintage, so the Châteaux have to be on their toes as this is seen more as a quality stamp.
Just briefly it is worth mentioning what came before. The original system established in 1932 allowed 444 wines the name ‘Cru Bourgeois’ on their label, however it was never formalised by the Agricultural Ministry and it just ticked over. In the subsequent years some Châteaux expanded, invested and gained great reputations, while others never progressed and were quite average, so there was need for a change and a decision was made in 2000 to classify the wines. The first big and controversial change was to reduce the numbers to 247 out of 490 candidates, almost half of the original 1932 selection. It then used 3 different categories, Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (only 9 Châteaux), Cru Bourgeois Supérior (87 Châteaux) and then Cru Bourgeois with 151 and this was to be reviewed every 12 years, so it gave other properties something to aspire to if they so desired. In principle it all sounded good but some owners were upset at being left out or entered at a lower level and some of the tasting panel seemed to have rather close interests in some Châteaux, suffice it to say with other legal issues the whole classification came to a grinding halt in 2003 and became annulled.
So, what is happening now, well in 2009 a new quality assurance system was introduced to try and capitalise on its revival especailly with new markets and good recent vintages.
There are now 3 stages to the quality assessment:
1) Eligibility of producers: Its open to all eight Médoc AOC’s and a site visit is undertaken
2) Setting of quality standards: blind tastings undertaken by selected professional tasters based on representative samples, with a minimum score to be obtained.
3) Attainment of ‘Cru Bourgeois” Recognition: Eligible producers present their wines two years after harvest to be judged and are compared to the representative sample already submitted and if a score equal or greater is achieved it is simply recognized as “Cru Bourgeois”.
New to 2010:
In 2010 the Alliance has gone one step further and introduced the “Cru Bourgeois” sticker on all 32 million bottles for the 2010 vintage. This scanable sticker provides a guarantee of quality, authenticity and origin. It will also link you to the Château web-site for more information, a useful and fun tool to get more from your bottle.
So what to buy and how do you choose between the 260 Châteaux in 2010? A good guide line I would have suggested is the old 2003 Classification and broadly speaking the top 9 Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel but here is the twist, you will not find the likes of Ch. Phélan-Ségur, Ch. Chasse-Spleen, Ch. Poujeaux, Ch. Siran, Ch. Les Ormes de Pez, Ch. Pontensac in the 2010 line-up as they decided to break away from the Alliance with the intention of forming their own group of leading properties. Also don’t forget Ch. Sociondo-Mallet, which does not wish to take either but makes excellent wines.
During the blind tasting of some 2010’s, the quality of the vintage came to the fore with its focused ripe fruit, freshness, balance and good density that gives this energy and vitality to a number of wines which will aide their longevity. For me it was about style and that is what you have decide on but we can always guide you:
Below were a few favourites:
2010 Ch. D’Escurac
Ch. Cambon la Pelouse
Ch. Biston Brillette
Ch. Pontac Lynch
Ch. La Fleur Peyrabon
As you can see it is still not all straight forward but it does offer a good, simple platform for consumers to promote the quality in the ‘Cru Bourgeois’ system. I still believe some form of hierarchy will develop over time as obviously not all the wines are the same or the same price, the current system just creates a quality level for entry, so for now follow your merchant and your own taste buds!
If you would like to know more or would like us to source some ‘Cru Bourgeois’ wines or even organise a tasting for you to decide your own classification then please get in touch.