The row that has been brewing over the recent 2012 Saint Emilion Classification has escalated. In January I wrote that three chateaux had taken issue with their ranking: Chateaux Croque Michotte, Corbin Michotte and La Tour du Pin Figeac (Giraud-Bélivier) – see my blog Saint Emilion – History Repeats Itself As Chateaux Challenge 2012 Classification with Legal Action.
The Carle family of Croque Michotte complained as soon as the new Classification results were announced – see Saint Emilion 2012 Classification Threatened and Saint Emilion 2012 Classification – Declassified Chateaux. Croque Michotte was soon joined by the other two chateaux who had concerns over‘irregularities and errors in the 2012 selection process.’
The French Press are now reporting that the three chateaux owners have filed a complaint with the public prosecutor of Bordeaux.
Their issue seems to be that there is a conflict of interests concerning Hubert de Boüard and Philippe Castéja. Hubert de Boüard is the Chairman of the regional committee of the INAO, President of the Grands Crus of Saint Emilion and owner of Chateau Angelus, which was promoted in the 2012 Classification to Premier Grand Cru Classé A. Philippe Castéja is also a member of the National Committee of the INAO and is the owner of Chateau Trotte Vieille which retained its rank of Premier Grand Cru Classé B.
The INAO, under the Ministry of Agriculture, played a key role in the development and processes of the new Classification system. The Sud Ouest newspaper quotes François Contencin, counsel for the three winemakers as saying that as both Hubert de Boüard and Philippe Castéja are members of INAO they had power of administration, monitoring and approval of grading operations concerning the 2012 Classification and that (to their knowledge)“they have never refrained from participating in critical discussions.”
The three winemakers also complain that Hubert de Boüard and Philippe Castéja had been active in the appointment of the chairman and members of the Classification committee, outside Bordeaux, set up to develop the new Classification.
The Sud Ouest aptly sums up the situation: “It is now in the criminal justice system to say whether Pierre Carle, the owner of Croque Michotte, is right when he argues that ‘the dice were loaded.’ “
It’s a serious accusation and a very ugly situation. I can see the arguments on both sides however I do wonder why the issue over conflict of interests was not raised before the 2012 Classification process if there were concerns?