The SOMM Journal

June / July 2015

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64 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } JUNE/JULY 2015 THE HIGH PRICE OF CLASSIFIED growths from Bordeaux's Left Bank make them a tough sell on all but the most expensive wine lists. Sommeliers and beverage managers are casting about for an alternative with the same organoleptic qualities to fill the gap. The problem is that once out of the regimented confines of the 1855 classification of Left Bank Bordeaux you are in free fall, surrounded by hundreds of choices of wines from France's largest wine region that vary in quality from for - midable to forgettable. What somms need is some kind of Occam's Razor to expedite the choice of classified growth alternatives. Enter the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc (usually abbreviated to Cru Bourgeois) a private membership associa - tion that exists to promote recognition and quality among Médoc wines. The Alliance has its roots in 1962 and has morphed several times. Its current structure repre - sents eight AOPs. The most general is the por tmanteau designation Médoc. Within that, is the sub-region of Haut-Médoc. Within that are six communes (towns), each of which has its own AOP status. Four of these are the familiar Haut-Médoc com - munes of (going south to north) Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint- Estéphe. The other two are the lesser-known Listrac and Moulis. Only red wine is covered by the Cru Bourgeois at the present time. For a wine to be a Cru Bourgeois wine it is not sufficient to just "send in the check." Any Médoc winery may apply, but all are then subject, each year, to a two-stage acceptance process. First, the Alliance will send out a team of inspectors to examine the physical facilities in terms of them being a complete wine making facility. They will also confirm that the size of the vineyards is large enough to supply the number of bottles that the producer makes. If the applicant passes this test, then the second stage is a taste test of their wine by an expert but independent board to assess its quality. In an interview that I conducted with the Alliance's Director, Frédérique Dutheillet de Lamothe, she stressed that the experts are tasked with assessing quality, not some notion of typicity. That is important as it allows the expression of Cru Bourgeois to evolve over time. The 243 producers who were successful in gaining the Cru Bourgeois designation in its first year with their 2008 wines (out of 290 applicants) got the right to use the distinctive neckband on each bottle of that vintage and the back label art on their bottles of that vintage. Note the innovative use of a QR code as a required feature of the seal. This allows the consumer to use the ubiquitous smartphone to check the producer's web site for more information about the wine. Both seals make a Cru Bourgeois wine unambiguously recognizable to the cus - tomer if the bottle is in their possession. However, they do not help when it is not. For the designation to be a selling point here, the distributor's product sheet (or somme- lier's wine list) would have to specify the Cru Bourgeois wine in the description. Given limited description space and since we live in an "acronymistic" world, I would suggest the Alliance promote the use of "CB" as an official shorthand for Cru Bourgeois. The designation is currently binary. The winery either passes or fails. It is also reset each year, preventing the ossification that besets the 1855 Médoc classification. These are both useful for the consumer. However, the now obsolete 2003 rules had a finer calibration; three levels went from Cru Bourgeois to Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. I spoke to a winemaker who is a leading light in the Cru Bourgeois classification process and he said that there are plans to restore the three tiers and also allow each designation to apply for five years rather than one, allowing producers to market around it (without fear of it being pulled within months). Watch for release of the 2015 vintage (in 2017) and the 2018 vintage (in 2020) for the addition of a second and a third tier respectively if these changes are approved this year. { france } THE ALLIANCE DES CRUS BOURGEOIS DU MÉDOC ASSURES AFFORDABLE LEFT BANK BORDEAUX FOR THE WINE LIST by Andrew Chalk A selection of Cru Bourgeois releases. Bourgeois Revolution

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