Grapevine: Bordeaux: Pleasure for the Elite or Staple for The Bourgeois?

We are part of The Trust Project
Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

Bordeaux. Wait. Stop. Don’t turn this page.

I know the word Bordeaux can elicit very mixed emotions – and facial expressions – every time it’s uttered or printed on a page. The wine world at large has done such a good job in promoting the mystique and elusiveness of high-end Bordeaux wines that the general public has become intimidated by the aura of this wine region.

But allow me the opportunity to change the public perception of these wines. They are not all aloof and formidable, nor are their prices necessarily in the stratosphere. They do not all require decades of aging in expensive wine cellars, to be drunk only on special occasions, or worse, never to be drunk, but purchased solely for bragging rights or as showpieces in the homes of the elite.

In fact, many of these wines are approachable, affordable and drinkable at a young age. Thanks to modern technology and dramatically improved winemaking techniques, Bordeaux wines have gone through a renaissance of quality and price.

I would not have had this opinion as recently as 10 years ago. Overwhelmed by the lofty prices of the top wines and the questionable quality of many of the remaining wines, Americans shunned Bordeaux wines.

And the French didn’t help their case for popularity. A classification system, set by government decree over 150 years ago, conferred honors on a small handful of wineries. The remainder wallow in general anonymity.

How can a consumer wade through the morass of unfamiliar French producer names and locales? If only the French would devise a means to identify quality wines and communicate those so designated in an uncomplicated and easily discernable fashion.

In an unprecedented move, winemakers in a segment of the Bordeaux region have established such a process.

As they transition from an image of exclusivity to bourgeois, from wine for the elite to wine for the masses, a consortium has evolved to represent these winemakers. A large swath of unclassified Bordeaux wineries and growers are located along the Gironde River. Those on its left bank, in an area referred to as the  Médoc, numbering nearly 1,000, have formed a government-recognized consortium dubbed the Alliance des Cru Bourgeois du Médoc.

Through this consortium, Médoc wines may be submitted for evaluation, and if judged qualitatively representative of the area, are labeled with its imprimatur. The designation of “Cru Bourgeois” signifies a wine that has undergone a rigorous quality control process.

 The process

  1. The Bureau Veritas, an independent group engaged by the consortium, has specified the particulars of evaluating wines submitted each year for consideration as Cru Bourgeois.
  2. The bureau invites local producers to apply for its quality assurance evaluation process. Those applying are visited by the Bureau to determine their eligibility for inclusion. If so determined, they may submit their wines for blind tasting.
  3. A panel of independent judges convenes to sample a cross section of wines from eligible wineries. Based on this blind tasting, a benchmark standard, and a score, is established for the current vintage release, against which all eligible wines are measured.
  4. Each eligible wine submitted for consideration is blind tasted. The wines are measured against the defined benchmarks. The six independent judges submit their evaluations individually and confidentially. Those wines whose average score equal or exceed that of the benchmark wines receive the Cru Bourgeois designation.
  5. The Cru Bourgeois logo is affixed to each bottle of designated wine. Embedded in the logo sticker are a random identifying code and a scannable QR code. Counterfeiting is thus reduced and a plethora of information becomes instantly available to a consumer.

For the current vintage release (2012), the Cru Bourgeois logo has been awarded to 267 Médoc wines. This quality assurance allows consumers to purchase excellent wines at a fraction of the cost of the high-end classified wines. With prices generally ranging from $10 to $25, American consumers can confidently purchase a bottle of Bordeaux sans the trepidation previously associated with many French wines.

Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.



We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.