The renaissanceof Cru Bourgeois

Read up on the specifics that make Cru Bourgeois a bang-up-to-date wine. A focus on a Bordeaux Cru 'pas comme les autres' with Anna Caidan.
Wine Story

Over time, the excellence of the Cru Bourgeois has imposed itself on our consciousness

The term “bourgeois” dates back to medieval times, when great merchants arose, based in the ‘bourg’ (town) of Bordeaux, hence the term “bourgeois”. From the Middle Ages to the French Revolution, the bourgeoisie is omnipresent in the political and economic life of cities and, at each change of power or authority, it is seen to have preserved its many privileges, including taxes. Exempt from the heavy taxes that weighed on wine, the bourgeois invested early on in the land and create large wineries. 1789 and the French Revolution marked the end of these privileges, but enriched by so many years of successful business, the bourgeois pursue their role as “pioneers of the wine." A very wealthy class, the bourgeoisie then attained the best land and the most efficient production methods. At the forefront of the latest viticulture and winemaking techniques, the bourgeois created wines of great quality and extend their domains to form prestigious vineyards which progressively will develop the grand "Crus Bourgeois”.

Historically, Crus Bourgeois have been constantly contributing to the prestige of the Médoc vineyard and although to date no official ranking has actually succeeded, they now account for a large vineyard production of the Médoc.

The twentieth century: a new beginning

World War I had severely hampered the development of Cru Bourgeois but the Médoc held on and its great wines survived. It was not until 1932 that the list established jointly by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Agriculture of the Gironde to devote the 444 sublime bourgeois wines divided into 3 distinct categories: six Crus Bourgeois Exceptional, 99 Crus Bourgeois Superiors and 339 Crus Bourgeois.

In 1962 the Union of Crus Bourgeois is created, which only includes a quarter of the properties identified thirty years earlier. With a strong enthusiasm, the Union gives Crus Bourgeois the dynamism and economic weight of the past.

What is a Cru Bourgeois? Today, it is a guarantee of good wine. A supreme certification of quality which is annually challenged without equivalence in Bordeaux.

If the name dates back to the fifteenth century, if the brokers numbered 444 Crus Bourgeois in 1932 and if a union is created in 1962, it was only in 2003 that a ministerial decree approved the first official ranking of Crus Bourgeois du Médoc for 247 châteaux, however giving rise to a problem; the 243 rejected châteaux took their case to court and the ranking was invalidated in 2007. Unthinkable, however, to deprive oneself of the label ‘Cru Bourgeois’. The then president of the Alliance Thierry Gardinier (Château Phélan Ségur), developed a new approach for a qualitative selection of Crus Bourgeois du Médoc approved in 2009 by the government and implemented in 2010. It is no longer classed; it is accredited, under the control of Veritas Bureau. But the categories “Cru Bourgeois” “Cru bourgeois Supérieur”, “Cru Bourgeois Exceptional” disappear. Another problem arises. The Exceptionals and some Supérieur retire, believing that their name or their appellation is sufficient to promote their wines.

The possibility of becoming a wine classified "Cru Bourgeois" is open to all Medoc vineyards authorised to produce wine in one of the eight Médoc AOCs: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac-Médoc, Moulis, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe. Properties applying for recognition are the object of an eligibility visit. Once eligible the property can submit its wine for the blind tasting held between March and July.

An important step is to determine the level of quality to qualify for the recognition of Crus Bourgeois. The quality is determined in a blind tasting of samples provided by candidates which then give a representative for the vintage concerned. Wines are randomly selected and divided between several panels of six experts, made up of professional tasters recognised in the industry, to be tasted and scored.

The independent body is responsible for the organisation of the tasting, the revealing of the identity of the wines and the results of the organoleptic assessment.

Tasting is done anonymously and without conferring.

The awarded certification of “Cru Bourgeois" is based on the arithmetic average of the scores given to a wine by each professional taster which must be equal or greater to that of the representative sample for the vintage concerned.

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