mardi 16 février 2010

The Recognition of the Crus Bourgeois: the personal secrets of a taster

I joined the admin team of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois a long time ago, and if I’m not mistaken this will be the sixth year of good and loyal service to this family where I’ve taken to the job like a fish to water. And yet we have had our fair share of trials and tribulations, starting with the cancellation of the new 2003 classification which was cancelled in February 2007! After a period of confusion and feeling lost, our administrative board quickly made some decisions, under the expert guidance of our faithful President, Thierry Gardinier. The first was to make peace, let the dust settle among producers (ex from the 1932 classification, those not classified in 2003, the newly classified that lost their status and the trouble makers that left the classification system...) It was a wise decision and a magnanimous choice that has enabled those producers in the Medoc that want to, to present their château to the Reconnaissance des Crus Bourgeois (Recognition of the Crus Bourgeois). Like the phoenix, the Crus Bourgeois have risen from their ashes and are stronger than before. The French government was tired of court cases against the various classification systems (that of St Emilion was not spared either) and as a result immediately informed the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois that it would not officially recognise the results of any further classification system unless the conditions of the organisation were not profoundly modified. It was not enough however, for the Alliance to lose heart, and it thus drew up the one and only selection process of domains and their wines under the control of an official verification body – Bureau Véritas. The whole process is based on a very precise set of guidelines as well as a Verification Plan. These two aspects and set of rules were compiled by the Technical commission under the direction of Olivier Sèze, assisted by Jean-Marc Landureau. A lot of work to define the limits of the Crus Bourgeois – all of it validated by the members at the general assemblies.

2010: the 2008 vintage will be subjected to this filtering process of the Reconnaissance. There are 290 wines that have been entered and the first board meeting for the Reconnaissance panel will take place on January 19th in Pauillac. One of the tasks is to do a blind selection of the panel that is representative of the wine regions (10 for the communal AOCs and as many for the Médoc and Haut-Médoc). This panel will then serve on the panel of professional tasters to set the average passing level for the Crus Bourgeois: if scored above that mark, the wine passes, but if below, it fails. But in order to give solid credibility to the tasters, they have to undergo a test. It consists of tasting 18 wines, some of which have major flaws (sourness, geranium flavours, blatant bitterness etc.), in order to eliminate those tasters who are either too severe or too lax. It was an historic moment earlier today as I put myself through my paces doing the test. I came out of it tired, but proud of this family that is the Crus Bourgeois, that dares to question itself in the middle of a wine crisis. It forges respect and I hope from the bottom of my heart that the consumer will respond in a positive manner to these objective steps undertaken in the name of quality.

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