Hubert de Boüard, owner of Chateau Angelus, is found guilty of rigging Saint Emilion ranking system (picture credit: Angelus)
Bordeaux Wine

Angélus’ withdrawal from Saint-Émilion classification throws its fate in doubt

Château Angélus becomes the third Premier Grand Cru Classé A property to withdraw from the 2022 Saint-Émilion classification system, just two months after its owner Hubert de Boüard was found guilty of rigging 2012 Saint Emilion ranking system, adding further uncertainties to the region's scandal hit classification.

Château Angélus becomes the third Premier Grand Cru Classé A property to withdraw from the 2022 Saint-Émilion classification system, just two months after its owner Hubert de Boüard was found guilty of rigging 2012 Saint Emilion ranking system, adding further uncertainties to the region’s scandal hit classification.

Angelus was elevated to the highest Premier Grand Cru Classé A ranking in 2012 voting, in which its owner Hubert de Boüard is accused of conflict of interest in the decision-making process. He was later convicted in October last year.

The exit also comes after two prestigious Bordeaux châteaux Cheval Blanc and Ausone announced their withdrawal in July last year. 

The consecutive withdrawals have provoked concerns from industry insiders towards the selection process in 2022, as well as the credibility and future prospects of the classification system.

Hubert de Boüard, owner of Chateau Angelus, is found guilty of rigging Saint Emilion ranking system (picture credit: Angelus)
Hubert de Boüard, owner of Chateau Angelus, is found guilty of rigging Saint Emilion ranking system (pic: Angelus)

While Jean-François Galhaud, president of St-Emilion’s wine council, expressed regret on Angelus’ exit, he emphasised that the classification must go on as scheduled, as reported by Decanter.

However, the wine industry is concerned that the series of withdrawal may trigger more exits from the classification system. Matthieu Cuvelier from Premier Grand Cru Classé Clos Fourtet said, “If others follow suit, this could be the end of the classification.”

Given that the Saint-Émilion classification system is believed to be useful for boosting the appellation, the collapse of the classification is forecasted to affect winemakers’ business, “if the system effectively falls apart, perhaps they will lack a catalyst to help to support their market prices and profile.” Matthew O’Connell, CEO of fine wine trading platform LiveTrade at Bordeaux Index suggested.

Château Angélus is one of the four ‘first growths’ of Saint-Émilion. It had been a Premier Grand Cru Classé B since 1996 before being classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé A in 2012. The chateau is also well known for its appearance in three James Bond films in 2006, 2015 and 2021.

Earlier in October 2021, the chateau’s co-owner Hubert de Boüard was convicted on the charge of conflict of interest over his actions while ranking the Saint-Emilion wines in 2012.

At the time, 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.

With great power in hand, he elevated his own wineries Angelus to the top level of Premier Grand Cru Classé “A”, as well as the adjacent Bellevue property and seven other wineries that he had an interest in or acted as advisor. As a result, the Bordeaux winemaker and consultant was fined €40,000 by court in October 2021.

Speaking of the withdrawal, his daughter Stephanie de Boüard-Rivoal, the 8th generation of the family, expressed doubts towards the current system and deemed it “unsuited to the challenges of our domain and its appellation” in a Tuesday interview. Previously, she said the chateau has a “solid and well-crafted ranking” in 2022.

Created in 1955 and renewed every decade, the Saint-Émilion classification system has raised controversies over the years. Given that the once-in-a-decade review would examine terroir, marketing, hospitality, winery reputation and other factors, it only counts terroir for 30% of the total score.

Such criteria had provoked Cheval Blanc and Ausone to withdraw from the system as they deemed the evaluation criteria had based more on social media presence than the quality of the wines, and departed too far from other fundamental aspects like the terroir, the wine and the history.

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