Couple of old Roans
Part of my post this week continues last week’s theme of wine’s longevity and resilience with a couple of red Rhônes from the 1980s that were still enjoyable with one showing extremely well.
First up the above 1980 from Beaucastel. Before attempting to pull the cork I had my doubts as the level was a little down. Once I had got the cork out any doubts disappeared – the 1980 was delicious with lovely evolved sweet fruit and excellent with roast Scottish beef. Looking at Decanter’s 1980 vintage report they mention that Beaucastel stood out – spot on!! We would have bought this 1980 sometime in the 1980s when we used to spend the summer holidays camping in the Vaucluse.
Along with Les Pallières Domaine de Longue-Toque was another of our favourite Gigondas’ producers. In those days it was owned by Serge Chapalain. Now ownership has passed to Gabriel Meffre. The level on this 1984 bottle was perfect but the wine reflected the more difficult 1984 vintage. Although still drinkable it was nowhere near the level of the 1980 Beaucastel – it didn’t have the concentration and the fruit was not as ripe – a little green. However, despite this our bottle of 1984 Gigondas had stood the test of time.
Minor change to the Saint-Emilion Classification?
It is being reported that when the new Saint-Emilion Classification is published new year it will not include either Ausone or Cheval Blanc. Not because the standard of wines from these two well known properties has declined dramatically – instead their owners have decided to leave the Saint-Emilion Classification, so did not return their application forms by the deadline of 30th June 2021. Below are a couple of reports on this apparent decision to leave the classification, which I understand is much appreciated by the legal fraternity.
‘Will Cheval Blanc and Ausone no longer be Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ as from the 2021 vintage?
If so, it won’t be because of the Commission de Classement. The closing of the Saint-Emilion classification applications took place on June 30 and neither Cheval Blanc nor Ausone returned their copies.
Unlike the left bank classification system of 1855 that is pretty much immutable (with the exception of Mouton’s promotion to Premier Cru in 1973), the St Emilion classification is reviewed approximately once every 10 years, permitting a periodic revaluation of quality and performance. It’s not all been plain sailing; the 2006 reclassification was plagued by accusations of impropriety and was eventually annulled. Consequently, tastings conducted for the 2012 reclassification were outsourced to independent groups from across France to rehabilitate the process.
Cheval Blanc and Ausone, the first St Emilion producers to be awarded Classé A classification in 1954 when it was created, are effectively leaving the classification system.
The Classé A incumbents evidently concluded that the system is no longer sufficiently discriminating to reflect the ranking of their respective properties compared to their peers.
This bombshell threatens to undermine the kudos and financial benefits of promotion to Classé A, and in turn the market pricing potential of those that are elevated. Not to mention it raises questions of the credibility of the St Emilion classification system more broadly.
So what does the two colossus’s departure say about the process of decennial review? How does this reflect on the composition and process of the Commission de Classement?
Is Grand Cru Classé A about to lose its lustre; devalued by ambitious properties busy erecting glitzy edifices? Concrete and stone, some say, matter more than they ought to compared to the brilliance of the wines and their track record.
Or, is Classé A promotion a reflection of the qualitative transformation we see taking place in St Emilion – given the strongly weighted preconditions of a sustained track record of exceptional results and market recognition – and therefore are not elevations thoroughly deserved?
Let’s see what happens over the coming weeks. Can Cheval Blanc and Ausone be courted back into the fold, or is their departure (by omission of submission) a fait accompli? Assuming the latter, perhaps we’ll see more promotions next year than we might have otherwise. What effect this all has economically on those producers who attain Classé A classification is now more uncertain than ever.’
Chris Kissack, The Wine Doctor, also reports here.
I am very pleased to report that Ausone and Cheval Blanc leaving the Saint-Emilion Classification will not in any way affect my purchases – I still won’t be able to afford these wines…