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Grand Cru 1855 Classification

Introduction

Bordeaux itself is divided into numerous geographical subzones, and most top subzones have a Grand Cru ranking of some kind. The most famous is the 1855 classification, which is an official tiered system applied to the top producers of the Médoc and Sauternes regions in that year.

The historic 1855 Bordeaux Classification stands as the single most important and famous classifications of any wine region in the world. Since 1855, the official classification of Bordeaux wines from the Medoc has only allowed two modifications in almost 160 years!

History of 1855 classification

Prior to 1855 Bordeaux Classification, Bordeaux wines were unofficially classified by the consumers. The first unique estates to gain attention for their specific wines was Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion. Next, merchants attended to their customers search for quality and started selling wines from Pauillac, Margaux, Saint Julien, Saint Estephe and Graves. Due to the fame of Haut Brion, purchasers also asked for the wines of Pessac.

Thomas Jefferson during his visit to Bordeaux in 1787 came up with his own list of the best wines as well. His list also placed what we know of as the First Growths at the top. Thomas Jefferson was the first to classify the wines in the Medoc as a whole, and not by appellation. He came up with the idea of three levels of classification. It was at this time that the next level of classified growths took hold and what we think of today as Second Growths were born. Similar to what would take place in the official Classification, Jefferson created his own list of what would become First Growths and interestingly, it was exactly the same as the list drawn up almost 75 years later with the official 1855 classification.

The Exposition Universelle de Paris was the perfect opportunity for France to place on display the best it had to offer in a myriad of categories for the entire world to see. This was what Napoléon III wanted to accomplish in 1855.

On April 5, 1855, the Gironde Chamber of Commerce headed by the president, Duffour-Dubergier, ordered an official classification to accompany the now famous wines of the Bordeaux appellation. The chateaux chosen were all located in 5 Left Bank appellations, Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac, Saint Estephe and Haut Medoc. It took the negociants less than 2 weeks to create the official 1855 Bordeaux Classification as it was completed April 18, 1855.

1855 classification

The criteria for this classification is the reputation of the wine and the transaction prices. The 1855 classification includes only red wines from the Medoc, the Sauternes and Barsac sweet white wines, and one Graves red cru.

For reds:

60 crus from the Médoc and 1 cru from Pessac-Léognan (Château Haut-Brion) based on five categories: 5 Premiers Crus, 14 Deuxièmes Crus, 14 Troisièmes Crus, 10 Quatrièmes Crus, 18 Cinquièmes Crus.

Key wineries:

The five “first growths” are the most highly-rated and most expensive. They are Châteaux Haut-Brion, Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Latour and Mouton Rothschild. The unofficial group known as “super seconds”, including Châteaux Palmer, Ducru-Beaucaillou and Cos d’Estournel, can often compete with the top names on both quality and price.

For sweet whites:

27 crus of the Sauternes and Barsac appellations: 1 Premier Cru Supérieur, 11 Premiers Crus, 15 Deuxièmes Crus.

Key wineries:

The most important winery here is the most important sweet wine producer in the world, Château d’Yquem. This is the sole member of the top tier, the only Premier Cru Exceptionnelle. Château Suduiraut is an important Premier Cru winery, and can often produce wines approaching Yquem’s quality at a much lower price.

Sole revision:

In 1973, the promotion of Château Mouton Rothschild from the rank of Deuxième Grands Cru Classé to that of Premier Grand Cru Classé (Médoc).

Recommendation


Château Camensac 2010
Château Haut Bages Liberal 2014

Two exceptional wines from an exceptional region, the renowned Haut-Medoc terroir. They belong to the Cinquiemes Crus category. Come 88 lounge tonight, 26/06 to savour these fine Bordeaux wines!

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