Château Angélus co-owner Hubert de Boüard de Laforest has been found guilty by a Bordeaux tribunal of knowingly using his public roles to influence the 2012 Saint-Emilion classification. The court found that he participated in the ranking process despite having a financial interest in the classification and acting as an advisor to estates under consideration. He will pay a fine of €40,000 for his role.
Co-defendant Philippe Casteja, meanwhile, was exonerated of criminal wrongdoing. Through his family holding company, Casteja controls Maison Borie Manoux and several prestigious classified estates, including Château Trotte Vieille, which retained its Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru B ranking in 2012.
Speaking in London yesterday, Hubert de Boüard condemned the judgement saying, “Everything I have done, I have done for the collective. This is an injustice.” He added that he would be consulting his lawyer further on the matter, but had not yet decided whether or not to appeal.\
At the time of the drawing up of the 2012 St-Emilion classification, de Boüard and co-defendant Philippe Castéja held senior positions in national appellations body the INAO, and de Boüard was also a senior figure in St-Emilion wine body the ODG. Castéja was acquitted by the court.
In the 2012 classification, Angélus was promoted to Premier Grand Cru Classé A status – the top of the St-Emilion classification pyramid – while Castéja’s Château Trotte Vieille maintained its ‘B’ status. Seven other properties for which de Boüard was a consultant or supervisor were either promoted or maintained their status in the 2012 classification, the court heard.
The case was brought by the owners of three rival châteaux, Tour du Pin Figeac, Corbin Michotte and Croque Michotte, which were demoted in the 2012 classification. However, the judgement did not find evidence that de Bouard’s machinations had directly impacted the demotion of the plaintiffs. Furthermore, according to French news agency AFP, one of plaintiffs bemoaned the sentence’s lack of severity. “He’s been fined 20 cases of Angélus,” said one.
The repercussions could spread wider, however. As of this date, it’s unclear how the ruling will impact the integrity of the classification, the ranking of Angélus and the rankings of de Boüard’s clients.
The verdict comes as Saint-Emilion prepares to announce its latest classification in 2022. Already, Châteaux Cheval Blanc and Ausone, both Premier Grand Cru Classé A properties, have withdrawn from the classification.