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Published:  23 July, 2008

The future of the new Crus Bourgeois classification (see p.5 Harpers 27 June) has been thrown into uncertainty, following attacks on several fronts by hundreds of excluded producers, according to a report in the French regional newspaper Sud Ouest. In a move designed to disrupt implementation of the classification, the Syndicat des Crus Bourgeois refused to vote itself out of existence in late July. The dissolution would have preceded a reconstituted syndicat made up only of the 247 recently classified members. Almost half the 490 chteaux which applied for the classification were unsuccessful. But it seems that even some of the winners voted against the dissolution in a show of solidarity. For the dissolution motion to have been carried, three-quarters of the 256 votes would have been needed. Instead it was defeated by 124 votes to 116, with 16 abstentions. The defeat reflects the extent of dissatisfaction with the classification, and leaves Dominique Hessel, president of the Syndicat and a classification judge, in an awkward position. He insisted after the vote that the classification had been strict, but in the interests of all the Crus Bourgeois'. Many in the Syndicat remain unconvinced. While they support the classification in principle, many oppose the way it was conducted, with complaints about inappropriate visits, the taking of samples, and excessively critical judges (see p.10 Harpers 8/15 August). You're asking for trouble if you don't tell those who have been excluded why,' said one producer. We're not dogs!' Another called Hessel and his colleagues puppets'. Following this setback, Vincent Fabre, on behalf of the newly classified properties in the Syndicat, offered an olive branch to the malcontents a few days later, asking them to contribute to a set of Cru Bourgeois production specifications. But when this was communicated by Denis Hecquet, president of the Union de Viticulteurs Mdocains (UVM), at a general meeting, it was unanimously rejected on the grounds that it would appear to endorse a classification which many refuse to accept. Meanwhile, the fight continues through legal channels. Some 68 dossiers have already been lodged with the legal tribunal, pressing for the classification to be overturned. All declassified members of the UVM have also individually demanded, within 48 hours, copies of the interviews supposed to have been conducted with them during the course of the classification. Hecquet says that they will have recourse to the highest legal authorities in France if the documents are not forthcoming, and that if they are not in order, victory will be assured.

Crus Artisans classify The 60 Crus Artisans, identified as such since the late 18th century and officially recognised by EU legislation in 1993, began their own classification procedure in February. The jury started its deliberations in June. It is hoped that they can avoid the controversy and division which have followed the classification of the Crus Bourgeois.