Will Angelus’ owner’s ‘guilty’ conviction impact wine investors?

Chateau Angelus’ co-owner, Hubert de Bouard has been found guilty of “an illegal taking of interest’ in the 2012 St Emilion Classification. The outcome of an 8-year legal scandal that has over-shadowed the St Emilion Classe A Chateau owner, has shocked the fine wine trade and put a question mark over the future of St Emilion’s Classification system. What is the impact for wine investors?

Reviewed and updated every decade, unlike the evergreen 1855 Classification of Medoc and Graves (excluding two changes since inception), the 2012 St Emilion ranking created a whole new level of angst in St Emilion when published. Three owners, whose chateaux were demoted in the 2012 ranking, joined forces in a legal action against Hubert de Bouard, claiming his ‘unfair influence’ on the process. The Bordeaux Tribunal has cleared him of any influence over their demotion, but found him guilty of the mis-management of his conflict of interest in the process.

So, what does this mean for wine investors and, in particular, those who own Chateau Angelus wines? Would Lafite, Margaux and Mouton Rothschild survive if not classified as First Growths? That’s the question I posed to myself after hearing that Cheval Blanc and Ausone were to leave the St Emillion Classification system. Of course they would.

In fact, one should question, in this age of communication technology, does any recognised brand need ‘any’ classification system?  I mean, the world-famous Petrus has always lived outside of classification, as Pomerol is without a ranking system!

So, then the argument takes me to the next question…. does the St Emilion Classification need Cheval Blanc and Ausone, more than the other way round?  Well, that’s been the view of LVMH, who own Cheval Blanc, and Ausone for some time. They finally pulled the trigger following the protracted legal case against the flamboyant, controversial owner of Angelus.

The reality is, that the court case was a ’score draw’, for even though De Bouard was found guilty and charged with a €40k fine (with another €20k suspended), an amount equal to ‘change’ in his pocket, the Angelus owner got what he always desired, Classe A…. who wouldn’t take that as a great deal!!

The ‘James Bond’ wine of choice has shot up in bottle value since the 2012 inauguration into Classe A. Still wondering why LVMH wanted out! Brand protection.  Simple as that.

So, yes, the Saint Emilion Classification has taken a dent, but it will carry on of course.

Finally, that brings me onto my last question to myself.  What will happen to the Classe A Tier in the 2022 edition of the ranking – will it now be easier for contenders to be ‘up-graded’ to fill a void?

Readers know of my love for Chateau Pavie, the 2012 fourth Classe A estate, which has remained ‘above’ the wrangling of the last decade, and good for them.  Owner, Gerard Perse, now owns hotels, restaurants and three other Chateaux, apart from Pavie, in and around St Emillion, and Pavie’s excellent Classe A terroir is gaining fans world-wide. As too are estates likely to be considered as future top tier wine producers of the region, such as Figeac and Troplong Mondot, so I guess it has come full circle to the original question. Do the top Chateaux ’need’ a rating system outside the quality scores of the highly-regarded, independent wine critics? Only time will tell!

For more information on Bordeaux Classification systems and investing in fine wine, see our Guide to Fine Wine Investment and speak to a member of our team on 0203 384 2262.