Stéphane Derenoncourt Shines Even Brighter with New 2012 Saint-Émilion Classification

September 25, 2012, by: Lisa Duff Khajavi

The new classification for Saint-Émilion was announced on Friday September 7th by the INAO (Institut National des Appellations d’Origine). There were four wines promoted to the top level — Premier Grand Cru Classé – three of which are made by Stéphane Derenoncourt: Château Larcis Ducasse, Château Canon la Gaffelière and La Mondotte. As a result of this re-classification, Stéphane is responsible for seven out of the eighteen Premier Grand Cru Classé wines. This impressive achievement underscores why many – including we at Montesquieu Wines – believe that no one knows the Right Bank quite like Stéphane.

One of Stéphane’s most famous wines, La Mondotte, skipped the Grand Cru Classé category entirely, jumping from AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru to Premier Grand Cru Classé, which is a rare feat. For those familiar with the famous garagiste wines such as La Mondotte and Valandraud (also promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé), these promotions were well-deserved and not entirely unexpected. La Mondotte has been considered among the greatest Bordeaux chateaux for years, a collector’s gem and fetching prices that one would expect from the top level.

The Magical Village of Saint-Émilion

However, this move emphasizes the dynamic nature of Saint-Émilion and how producers are not inclined to rest on their laurels. Saint-Émilion has always been unique, not only in its terroir and history, but in the standards of the appellation.

In 1955, exactly a century after the wines of the Médoc were classified, the Syndicat Viticole of Saint-Émilion with the approval of INOA released an official classification for the wines of Saint-Émilion. The classification groups the best wines into two categories: Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé.

Unlike members of the Médoc and Graves Classification of 1855, Saint-Émilion revises their rankings every ten years. Franck Binard, director of the Saint-Émilion Wine Council, in an interview with Decanter Magazine, shared the positive influence of the system: “The quality we see now is a result of improved standards. It shows the force of the classification – that winemakers are encouraged to do their very best, and that Saint-Émilion is a modern appellation where nothing is set in stone – anything is possible for those who work hard.”

This system has not been without controversy. When properties that had been demoted in the 2006 Classification sued, the classification was annulled by the courts, and then partially reinstated. After all of the legal wrangling, the 2012 classification was finally announced after many changes to the system, including parameters for blind tastings and inspections.

In an attempt to avoid conflicts of interest, the INAO outsourced the tastings and inspections to independent groups which means the Saint-Émilion Wine Syndicate and Bordeaux wine trade are no longer involved. There are seven members of the new commission from Burgundy, the Rhône Valley, Champagne, the Loire Valley and Provence.

The estates are now graded on a scale of 20 on four criteria: tasting, reputation, characteristics of the vineyard and infrastructure, and finally viticulture and winemaking. Additionally, the number of châteaux which can be classified are no longer fixed, and producers can be downgraded, upgraded or remain the same.

For the first time in its history, two châteaux have been upgraded to the highest echelon of Premier Grand Cru Classé A joining Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc – Château Angélus and Château Pavie. 16 properties, including Château Jean Faure which is made by Stéphane Derenoncourt, received the status of Grand Cru Classé for the first time.

Château Magdeleine was omitted from the list as it will be merged with Château Bélair-Monange.

The classification now comprises 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 64 Grands Crus Classés. Promoted properties are in bold, and wines made by Stéphane Derenoncourt are indicated by *SD.

Premiers Grands Crus Classés
Château Angélus (A)
Château Ausone (A)
Château Beauséjour (héritiers Duffau-Lagarrosse) *SD
Château Beau-Séjour-Bécot
Château Bélair-Monange
Château Canon
Château Canon la Gaffelière *SD
Château Cheval Blanc (A)
Château Figeac
Clos Fourtet *SD
Château la Gaffelière *SD
Château Larcis Ducasse *SD
La Mondotte *SD
Château Pavie (A)
Château Pavie Macquin *SD
Château Troplong Mondot
Château Trottevieille
Château Valandraud

Grands Crus Classés
Château l’Arrosée
Château Balestard la Tonnelle
Château Barde-Haut
Château Bellefont-Belcier
Château Bellevue
Château Berliquet
Château Cadet-Bon
Château Capdemourlin
Château le Chatelet
Château Chauvin
Château Clos de Sarpe
Château la Clotte
Château la Commanderie
Château Corbin
Château Côte de Baleau
Château la Couspaude
Château Dassault
Château Destieux
Château la Dominique
Château Faugères
Château Faurie de Souchard
Château de Ferrand
Château Fleur Cardinale
Château La Fleur Morange
Château Fombrauge
Château Fonplégade
Château Fonroque
Château Franc Mayne
Château Grand Corbin
Château Grand Corbin-Despagne
Château Grand Mayne
Château les Grandes Murailles
Château Grand-Pontet
Château Guadet
Château Haut-Sarpe
Clos des Jacobins
Couvent des Jacobins
Château Jean Faure *SD
Château Laniote
Château Larmande
Château Laroque
Château Laroze
Clos la Madeleine
Château la Marzelle
Château Monbousquet
Château Moulin du Cadet
Clos de l’Oratoire
Château Pavie Decesse
Château Peby Faugères
Château Petit Faurie de Soutard
Château de Pressac
Château le Prieuré
Château Quinault l’Enclos
Château Ripeau
Château Rochebelle
Château Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie
Clos Saint-Martin
Château Sansonnet
Château la Serre
Château Soutard
Château Tertre Daugay (Quintus)
Château la Tour Figeac
Château Villemaurine
Château Yon-Figeac

La Mondotte, in the east of the Saint-Emilion plateau

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