Chateau Maison Blanche, Médoc, Cru Bourgeois, France, 2009, 14% abv, C$29

There’s no two ways about it.  Bordeaux is confusing.  What does Cru Bourgeois mean?

You’ve probably heard about the Premier through Cinquième Crus – the famous First through Fifth Growths. The Premier level includes renowned chateaux Lafite, Latour and Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion.

This classification system was set in 1855 but there were many more estates than were included in it. There was nowhere for the remaining Médoc-based chateaux to go to ‘classify’ their wines.

And there were a LOT of them.

Following WWI, the Cru Bourgeois classification was established for these 444 remaining chateaux. Everything continued happily for a while, but by the 1960s, over 300 of those estates were no longer even making wine or had been absorbed by other properties.

Fast forward to 2003 when a new system was established whereby three sub-levels were set; Cru Bourgeois Exceptionel, Cru Bourgeois Superieur and Cru Bourgeois. The wines were assessed for these categories based on their 1994-99 vintages. This new stipulation immediately caused 76 of them to complain about unfairness and lay claims.

One property in particular (Chateau Preuillac) had recently been purchased by new owners who felt it was wrong to judge their estate against what the former owners had produced. Courts found in their favour and as a result, the rules were changed.

It was decided that the Cru Bourgeois classification would be ‘a label of quality’ only and available annually based upon a tasting. Then, in 2008 it was agreed that some production criteria would be included too (like ageing for 18 months in oak). The Exceptionel and Superieur labels are no longer used.

This wine from Maison Blanche is clear and bright, deep ruby with legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium plus intensity and aromas of deep black and blue fruit (plums, blueberries, blackberries, cassis), some green pepper, black pepper, a comfy leather chair and some clove.

The palate is dry and has medium plus acidity with high alcohol and medium plus dusty tannins with slight grip. The body is medium plus and it has medium plus intensity with flavours of more blue and black fruit (blueberries, damson plums, blackberries, black currants), slight herbaceousness, baking spices (clove and nutmeg), black pepper, tar and kid glove leather. The finish is a solid medium plus.

This Cru Bourgeois wine is WSET Very Good. It over delivers for the cost and has good concentration and complexity that will continue to grow for about 3-5 years; the tannins and acidity are strong enough to support the fruit. Plush and full bodied, this wine will be perfect with steak or meat-based dishes. We enjoyed thoroughly with spicy Italian sausages.


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