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The four main classification systems
OF BORDEAUX WINES

The concept of official wine classification dates back to 1855, at the request of Napoleon III for the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855. A guarantee of the typicality of a terroir and of the excellence of human endeavour over several generations in the service of quality, these classifications have evolved over time and, despite controversy, constitute a method of categorising the red and white wines of the châteaux of the Gironde according to very precise criteria. Much more than a hierarchy of wine estates, these classifications reflect the history of Bordeaux wines: their origins, the region's wine trade and, of course, the châteaux themselves. It should be noted that the absence of a classification does not prevent an appellation or a growth from being considered a fine wine, as in the case of Pomerol.

Classement 1855

The 1855 Classification

Origins of this Classification

1855: for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, Napoleon III asks each wine-growing region to draw up a classification. The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Industry initiated the project for the Gironde.

The Criteria

The reputation of the crus and the transaction price.

Particularities

The classification only includes red wines from the MĂ©doc, a red wine from Graves and sweet white wines from Barsac and Sauternes.

Categories

Red wines: 60 Médoc crus and one Pessac-Léognan cru (Château Haut-Brion) divided into five crus:

  • 5 Premiers Crus (first growth)
  • 14 Deuxièmes Crus (second growth)
  • 14 Troisièmes Crus (third growth)
  • 10 Quatrièmes Crus (fourth growth)
  • 18 Cinquièmes Crus (fifth growth).

Sweet white wines: 27 crus from the Sauternes and Barsac appellations:

  • 1 Premier Cru SupĂ©rieur (first growth superior)
  • 11 Premiers Crus
  • 14 Deuxièmes Crus.

Revision

1973: promotion of Château Mouton Rothschild from 2nd to 1st Grand Cru Classé.

Classement des Graves

The Graves classification

Origins of this Classification

1953: at the request of the Syndicat de défense de l'appellation des Graves, the Institut national des appellations d'origine (INAO) carries out the classification.

The Criteria

Commune and wine colour (red or white).

Particularities

A single level of classification with no hierarchy. Château Haut-Brion is the only Bordeaux wine to be classified twice: it is included in the classification of Graves and in that of 1855.

Categories

16 crus classés (classified growths) all belonging to the Pessac-Léognan AOC:

  • 7 red wine crus
  • 3 white wine crus
  • 6 red and white wine crus

Revision

This classification is not subject to revision.

Classement de Saint-Emilion

The Saint-Émilion Classification

Origins of this Classification

1955: at the request of the Syndicat de défense de l'AOC Saint-Émilion, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) classified the appellation's crus.

The Criteria

Quality, consistency and ageing potential of the wines for the Premiers Grands Crus Classés. Scoring system out of 20.

Categories

The 2022 ranking includes 85 properties:

  • 2 Premiers Grands Crus classĂ©s A
  • 12 Premiers Grands Crus classĂ©s B
  • 71 Grands Crus classĂ©s

The overall number of classified châteaux has risen slightly compared to the 2012 classification, which was 82 estates. The list of Premiers Grands Crus Classés A has been reduced from four to two; Premiers Grands Crus Classés B from 14 to 12; and Grands Crus Classés from 64 to 71.

Château Pavie and Château Figeac stand out in the new classification, moving up to Premiers Grands Crus classés A. There are no new Premier Grand Cru Classé or downgrades in this category. Four châteaux have been withdrawn:

- in Premiers Grands Crus Classés A (Château Angélus, Châteaux Ausone, Château Cheval-Blanc)

- in Premiers Grands Crus Classés B (Château La Gaffelière).

Revision

Every 10 years by the INAO. There have been seven classifications since 1955. The 7th and final classification, published on 8th September 2022, is the result of a new procedure, placed entirely under the authority of the INAO, with the support of the Ministries of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Classement des Crus Bourgeois du MĂ©doc

The MĂ©doc Cru Bourgeois Classification

Origins of this Classification

1932: established by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and the Gironde Chamber of Agriculture.

1962: creation of the Syndicat des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc (L'Alliance). The Crus Bourgeois are a large family of châteaux committed to a promise of quality and sensible farming. They offer a wide diversity of characters from which they draw their richness and strength. Historically based in Bordeaux, they cover the eight Médoc appellations: Médoc, Haut-Médoc, Listrac, Moulis, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe.

The Criteria

Based on the overall performance of each Cru compared to a benchmark vintage (specifications and verification plan approved by ministerial decree).

Depending on the eligibility of the vineyards and the sensory analysis. Tastings are carried out blind on five vintages of the Cru to measure their consistency (ageing potential). HVE (Haute Valeur Environnementale; high environmental value) is a mandatory environmental standard.

Categories

There are three levels: the Crus Bourgeois, awarded for their quality, and the Crus Bourgeois Supérieurs and Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels, whose technical and promotional criteria are even stricter.

The 2020 ranking covers 249 estates, including:

  • 14 Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels
  • 56 Crus Bourgeois SupĂ©rieurs
  • 179 Crus Bourgeois

New for 2020 is the reintroduction of the Crus Bourgeois Supérieurs and Crus Bourgeois Exceptionnels, which have been dropped since the 2003 classification, as well as the frequency of the classification, which is subject to change.

Particularities

It applies only to affordable red wines.

These are often family-run estates that join the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois every year, representing more than 31% of the MĂ©doc's production in 2020.

Revision

Properties are classified for five years.

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