Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, owner of Saint-Emilion’s prestigious Château Angélus, has been found guilty of manipulating the 2012 Saint Emilion classification to favour wineries he had financial interest or acted as an advisor, a Bordeaux court has ruled on Monday.
Hubert de de Boüard, 65, is convicted on the charge of conflict of interest over his role in determining the Grand Cru rankings for Saint-Emilion wines in the once-in-a-decade review in 2012.
In the landmark trial, the Bordeaux winemaker and consultant was fined €40,000 by court for using his position to favor estates he has a stake in.
At the time of the classification, de Boüard chaired the regional committee of France’s official appellations body, the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO) and the Defense and Management Organization (ODG) of the Saint-Émilion appellation, which is essential in formulating the INAO criteria for the rankings.
As a result, his own wineries Angelus was elevated to the top level of Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” and the adjacent Bellevue property also entered the classification. Seven other wineries that he consulted or had an interest in are also either introduced, promoted or confirmed in 2012, according to Vitisphere.
Judge Denis Roucou stated that de Boüard’s actions went beyond having a passive conflict of interest, and he told the court there had been “arrangements between friends”.
Another defendant in the case, Philippe Casteja, a wine merchant and owner of the Chateau Trottevieille and a member of the INAO panel, was acquitted.
The case was first filed in 2013 by three plaintiffs – Châteaux Corbin-Michotte, Croque-Michotte and La Tour du Pin Figeac, whose rankings were either demoted or removed from the classification.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer Eric Morai lambasted the Saint Emilion ranking scandal and said the lawsuit is also a trial of the classification system itself.
The controversial Saint Emilion ranking takes into account a few factors including terroir, marketing, hospitality, winery reputation and among others. Terroir, however, only accounts for 30% of their total score.
Two other prestigious and iconic wineries in Saint Emilion – Cheval Blanc and Ausone – earlier announced their withdrawal from the classification system.
Both were ranked as the top Premier Grand Cru Classé “A” estates in the 2012 classification.