Grands Crus Classés

Grands Crus Classés

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The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 resulted from the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris, when Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France’s best Bordeaux wines that were to be on display for visitors from around the world. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a château’s reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality.

The wines were ranked in importance from first to fifth growths (crus). All of the red wines that made it on the list came from the Médoc region except for one: Château Haut-Brion from Graves. The white wines, then of much less importance than red wine, were limited to the sweet varieties of Sauternes and Barsac and were ranked only from superior first growth to second growth.

Within each category, the various châteaux are ranked in order of quality and only twice since the 1855 classification has there been a change, first when in 1856 Cantemerle was added as a fifth growth (having either been originally omitted by oversight or added as an afterthought, depending on which of the conflicting accounts is correct) and, more significantly, in 1973, when Château Mouton Rothschild was elevated from a second growth to a first growth vineyard after decades of intense lobbying by the powerful Philippe de Rothschild. A third, but less known “change”, is the removal of Château Dubignon, a third growth from Margaux that was absorbed into the estate Château Malescot St. Exupéry.

A superficial change is that since 1855, when only five of the estates were styled with the word “château” in their name, most Bordeaux wine estates now use this nomenclature.

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