For decades, the wines of Bordeaux were seen as overly expensive, over-extracted to conform with certain wine writers’ palates and simply drifting away from what they once were. Things have now changed for the better, and although highly prized Grand Cru Classes are still expensive, they look positively inexpensive compared to Burgundy.

The value lies in the middle ground, not the aforementioned Grand Cru Classe wines, or Cru Artisan, but the Cru Bourgeois du Médoc. Here there are wonderful bottles to be found that offer a balance between quality and price. I recently tasted 6 to gauge if my statement was correct, which I have written about at the end of this feature. Before you read them, it is worthwhile learning a little about the Cru Bourgeois classification, followed by an interview I conducted with Eugénie from the promotional body.

The origins of the Cru Bourgeois classification date back to the Middle Ages, when bourgeois (middle-class) merchants of Bordeaux were granted the right to own vineyards in the Médoc. Over time, these bourgeois vineyards came to be recognised for their quality, standing out amidst a region celebrated for its viticultural prowess. However, it wasn’t until 1932 that the term “Cru Bourgeois” was formally applied to designate specific châteaux within the Médoc that met certain quality standards but did not qualify for the 1855 Classification of the Médoc and Sauternes. This historical context underscores the classification’s role in highlighting estates that produce wines of notable quality and character.

The Cru Bourgeois classification underwent significant changes in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, reflecting the dynamic nature of the wine industry and the need for transparency and rigour in wine classification. After a period of legal and organisational restructuring, the Association des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc introduced a new, more stringent selection process in 2020. This revamped system, based on a five-year certification cycle, ensures that wines bearing the Cru Bourgeois label meet high standards of quality, verified through rigorous blind tasting and adherence to strict environmental practices.

Today, the Cru Bourgeois designation encompasses several hundred châteaux, each producing wines that offer a snapshot of the diverse terroirs of the Médoc. The classification is divided into three tiers: Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, allowing for further differentiation and recognition of quality within the category. This tiered system benefits both producers and consumers by facilitating clearer communication and helping wine lovers navigate the complexity of Bordeaux with greater confidence.

I recently asked Eugénie Bienfait, from Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, for further information.

What is the current process for a vineyard to achieve Cru Bourgeois status, and how are these criteria designed to ensure quality and authenticity?

Firstly Château submit an application for either Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur or Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel and all applications are thoroughly checked to ensure they are eligible. Samples are then collected and tasted blind by an independent panel of tasters to ensure quality and consistency.

All château then have to prove they are working towards an Environmental certification level, plus the management of the vineyard, winery and how they wine is marketed is all checked. The process is overseen by an independent verification body QB Vérification and the process is approved by the French public authorities. Once classified, an authentication sticker is attached to the bottle as a QR code as a guarantee of the wine’s authenticity.

How has the re-establishment of the Cru Bourgeois classification in 2020 impacted the quality and perception of the wines?

Firstly, the point of entry to the classification is always the tasting.  As mentioned above the classification in 2020 involved a blind tasting by a jury of independent experts. The scores obtained during the blind tasting sessions are a real guarantee of the wine quality. Secondly, the 3 levels within the classification: “Crus Bourgeois, Crus Bourgeois Supérieur and Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnel” ensure high levels of quality are maintained. Additionally, to guarantee that quality remains consistent, various Crus Bourgeois wines are selected randomly to be tasted throughout the year.

It is also important to mention that in order to meet the need for consistency between the various vintages, the classification of 2020 included the tasting of 5 different vintages compared to only one with the previous classification. Finally, as the classification “renews” every 5 years, member château must maintain their wine quality and reputation in order to stay within the classification. So in summary the re-establishment of the 2020 classification has increased the quality and the perception of the wines within the classification.

How do Cru Bourgeois wines stand in comparison with the Grand Cru Classés wines in terms of ageing potential?

The Crus Bourgeois properties are situated within the same wine regions as the Grands Crus Classés. We have the same wine development potential and with a good ageing potential too. The Médoc area is well known for offering wines which will age well and this applies for all the Crus Bourgeois Classifications.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing producers today, and how are you supporting them in these areas?

One of the biggest challenges is the fact that the consumption of Bordeaux wines’ is changing: today’s consumers are looking for lighter wines and wines they can drink on different occasions.

However, these changes in consumption are also new opportunities for producers to develop their growth. Producers must adapt their wines in terms of drinkability, they also should adapt their communication and finally they need to have a closer look to the market demand and the future trends.

The Association is helping them to face this new challenge at different levels:

1. We are producing different market analysis in order to help them to better understand the consumers’ needs.
2. We build effective communication campaigns for the Crus Bourgeois group to reach the target audience which align with the latest consumer trends.
3. We give them various toolkits and we provide different training sessions to support them (mainly in the digital marketing aspect). We also helped them on the commercial side with some coaching sessions.

For the launch of our next classification in 2025, we are actively working on an effective communication campaign to meet the consumer’s needs and to better reach new targeted audiences.

In what ways are the vineyards adapting to climate change, and what impact have these adaptations had on the wines?

Regarding climate change, properties have been adapting: as an example, the harvest date has been advanced. In the past few years, new grape varieties have been introduced in the Médoc territory. Those new grape varieties are more resistant to climate change and also more resistant to some grape diseases.

To what extent are your members engaging in sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices, and what benefits have they seen from such practices?

The Crus Bourgeois group and therefore their members are highly engaged towards sustainability. For example, for our 2025 classification, the “Crus Bourgeois ” must have at least an environmental certificate level 2 and the Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Exceptionnels should have the certificate level 2 and level 3.

Additionally, we have developed a strong partnership with the Sustainable Wine Roundtable in order to maintain and develop good sustainability practices.

Finally, regarding our bottle weight: Around 50% of our members have reduced the weight of their bottles in the past few years, around 40g/bottle on average, which helps reduce their carbon footprint.

What are your plans for Cru Bourgeois in the future?

In the future, our ambition is to continue to ensure high-quality standards within all the classification levels. We also want to increase our environmental commitments by implementing awareness and training actions for our members. One of our primary goals is also to spread the know-how of French gastronomy. This is why we have recently made a new partnership with the French Restaurant Association: providing a label recognised by the French government for all restaurants with high-quality standards. Finally, we are already working on the requirements for the 2030 classification, with the ambition to better meet the market’s needs.


Château Pomeys 2019 – Moulis en Médoc – Cru Bourgeois – £25

If you love Merlot, then this juicy, berry-forward wine will appeal to you. It has a lovely dryness to it with blackberries, plums and damsons on the nose. These develop on the palate where some mocha, leather and vanilla notes come to the fore. This is ageing well, and is at its prime now.

Château Nouret 2021 – Médoc – Cru Bourgeois – £25

A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (usually 50/50) this has the jammy plum and blackcurrants you would anticipate. There are hints of vanilla from the oak, but these play second fiddle to the lovely fruit.

Château Saint-Aubin 2020 – Medoc – Cru Bourgeois – £20

This had a scented nose of blackcurrant, chocolate, vanilla and some damson. In the mouth it had a lovely fruit profile with soft tannins and just a hint of leather. It possessed a lovely structure and offers real value for money.

Château Laffitte Carcasset 2020 – Saint-Estèphe – Cru Bourgeois Supérieur – £30

This was a step up in quality as the Supérieur designation signifies. It seemed to be Cabernet dominated and more robust, with the obligatory blackcurrant, but also cherry and liquorice making an appearance. On the palate I also found some raspberries, a hint of sweetness and some herbs. A definite step up in quality.

Château Cap Leon Veyrin 2019 – Listrac Medoc – Cru Bourgeois Supérieur – £25

2019 was a stand out vintage in Bordeaux, so having an opportunity to taste 3 wines from the vintage side to side was interesting. This Cabernet/Merlot blend was delicious. It added another layer of complexity, with rich, ripe dark fruits, integrated tannins and great length.

Château de Malleret 2019 – Haut-Médoc –  Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel – £30

My initial impression was how much finesse this wine has. It has a beautifully perfumed nose of damsons, sloes and blackcurrants. The tannins are smooth and the wine tastes beautiful displaying an array of cassis, cherry, fresh mint, black pepper, leather and black tea.

This comparative tasting perfectly encapsulates just what good value Cru Bourgeois currently is. Of course, you are going to experience vintage variation, but by looking out for wines that have Cru Bourgeois on the label, you are going to have a pretty good chance of enjoying a fantastic bottle. I should add that each of the 6 wines tasted would be excellent with food – with what is up to you.

Images kindly supplied by Cru Bourgeois du Médoc