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Bordeaux Classification

Bordeaux classification (GB)
Bordeaux classification (F)
Burdeos clasificación (ES)
Bordeaux classificatie (N)

Classifications of wineries ( Châteaux ) or crying in Bordeaux took place as early as the 18th century. There are five systems today; the most famous is from 1855. Only wines from the left bank ( Rive gauche ) the Gironde taken into account, these are the areas Médoc. Graves and Sauterne, Of course, they also grow on the right bank ( Rive droite ) such as B. Fronsac. Pomerol and Saint-Emilion excellent wines. The classification, which is over one and a half centuries old, applies regardless of the differences that vary from year to year quality of the wines. So far, as an absolute exception, there has been only one change in which the Château Mouton-Rothschild from second to first rank. It continues to be of great importance and is therefore marketed by the wineries with the top ranking on label used.

Bordeaux classification - systems or logos

The remaining four systems valid for other Bordeaux areas (which, as mentioned, were not taken into account in 1855) were only introduced much later. The cru classes are different in the name and in the number of quality levels, what compared to the uniform and applicable to all appellations Burgundy classification is quite confusing. There have always been attempts at standardization. A suggestion came from Alexis Lichine (1913-1989), which, however, was ultimately not realized.

  • Médoc for red wines with five levels - 1855
  • Sauterne and Barsac for white wines with three levels - 1855
  • Cru Bourgeois (Médoc) with one level - from the 1920s, recognized by EG 1976
  • Cru Artisan (Médoc) with one level - 1989, recognized by EU 1994
  • Graves for red and white wines with one level - 1953 and 1959, respectively
  • Saint-Emilion with two stages - 1955

The one-tier systems Cru Bourgeois and Cru Artisan apply to wineries from the Médoc that are not classified as Grands Crus and rank behind the Grands Crus from 1855. The classification, which has been changed several times, is repeated periodically (see below). For Graves was created in 1953 and supplemented in 1959 a one-tier classification, which differentiates between red and white wines (all wineries are in the area Pessac-Léognan ). For Saint-Emilion a two-stage system was introduced in 1955, the classification is tied to the layers (vineyards). It is reviewed periodically and the wineries have to apply. In the fields of Fronsac and Pomerol as an exception, there is no classification in Bordeaux.

The association UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) represents the most important Bordeaux growing areas, represents the interests of independent winegrowers and acts as a marketing platform, especially for international customers. In addition to the UGCB, there are other regional associations with similar objectives, namely the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc, the Classement des Vins de Graves and the Classements des Vins de Saint-Émilion.

The 1855 classification

Emperor Napoleon III From May 15 to November 15, 1855, under the aegis of Napoleon III. (1808-1873) the world exhibition held in Paris. The most important exhibition location was temporarily erected between Champs-Élysées and the Seine. The monarch instructed the Chamber of Commerce of Bordeaux (Gironde) to prepare "a complete list of classified Bordeaux reds and our great white wines" in preparation for this event. The wines of the right Dordogne - Shores were not considered because of these appeals by the Chamber of Commerce Libourne were under. The reputation of these wines such as B. Pomerol However, it only developed later.

The Chamber of Commerce was unable to agree on an evaluation system and delegated responsibility to the "Syndicat des courtiers de commerce de Bordeaux" (Association of Wine Brokers). A classification for wines was nothing fundamentally new, because similar rankings have been unofficially for a long time. A total of over 25 different systems are known before 1855.

The brokers were under enormous pressure and had little time left, but still managed to create a list within a very short time. This was not based on current tastings, but primarily took into account the sales prices of the past hundred years. This criterion simply stated that the most expensive wines are the best. However, ranking lists were also included in the decision, the Alexander Henderson (1780-1863), the later U.S. President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and Cyrus Redding (1785-1870). In addition, the brokers took into account the reputation of the houses and the acquis at the time. The classification was a long-term view, so that individual fluctuations as individual bad vintages or poorer qualities due to a change of ownership were insignificant.

Red wines 1855 (Médoc and a wine Graves)

On April 18, 1855, the Association of Brokers announced its list of the best wines. It was expressly emphasized that the classification was by no means a snapshot, but was to be understood as “the result of a development that was more than a hundred years old”. The result was two lists, one with red wines and one with white wines. A total of 61 châteaux were added to the red wine list (this number refers to the current status). It should be used for all red wines Gironde but only included wines from the Médoc and one from Graves. These were grouped from “Premiers Crus” to “Cinquièmes Crus” in five classes. A question that is asked again and again is whether there is a ranking or ranking within the five groups. In this regard, the brokers were very contradictory in the evaluation phase.

Bordeaux classification 1855 - the labels of the 5 Premier Cru Classé

In a letter dated September 16, 1855 to the Chamber of Commerce, they noted that there was no superiority or qualitative ranking within a tier: wines of the same classification should be considered as equal. But a month earlier they had said the opposite. Another argument against “equality” is that the wines in the original list were not sorted alphabetically or by municipality. In addition, the Château Mouton-Rothschild was explicitly assigned the first place in the Deuxième Crus, so to speak, as a "consolation patch". So the committee probably ranked within the groups, but in the end did not want to admit it officially in order not to annoy anyone and to prevent protests to be expected.

It is worth mentioning that compared to e.g. B. the classification in Saint-Emilion Changes in the vineyards have no effect on the rank. The only requirement is that the areas must be within the appellation. What matters here is the reputation of the winery and not the quality of the location. The name of the winery is, so to speak, an unchangeable quality feature and trademark. See the list or order of the below Médoc, where the châteaux are listed with the digit numbers from the original list.

Bordeaux classification - facsimile of the original documents

White wines 1855 (Sauternes and Barsac)

24 châteaux from Barsac and Sauternes were grouped into the two classes "Premiers Crus" and "Deuxièmes Crus". In the end, however, the special class "Premieur Cru Classé Supérieur" was awarded, that was it Château d'Yquem, The winery was and still is one step higher than the first class of red wines. Owing to the division of property, there are now 27 châteaux. See in detail under Sauterne,

Cru bourgeois

This term originated in the 1920s. In addition to the Cru Classé a "middle class" was created, so to speak, among these "aristocratic" wineries. The wines must come from one of the eight Médoc appellations Haut-Médoc. Listrac-Médoc. Margaux. Médoc. Moulis. Pauillac. Saint-Estèphe or Saint-Julien come. Other criteria include no barrel sales, bottling, sales only in the second year following the harvest and regular quality checks using random samples. From 1930 to 1932, an expert commission classified 444 wineries. The "Association of Crus Bourgeois" was founded in 1962, at that time half of these wineries no longer existed. In 1976 "Cru Bourgeois" was also recognized by the EU.

In 1978 there was a second and finally in 2003 the most recent classification. A total of 490 châteaux applied, of which only 247 were classified. The classification was based on wines produced from 1994 to 1999. The châteaux were classified into three levels: Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel (9), Cru Bourgeois Supérieur (87) and Cru Bourgeois (151). That has always been classified since 1932 Château Sociando-Mallet was not taken into account at their own request. These were among others (E = Exceptionnel):

After the publication of the 2003 classification, there was an appeal. A total of 78 Châteaux that were not taken into account and, in their view, passed over in 2004 brought an action before the Bordeaux Administrative Court, alleging serious procedural errors. Among other things, classified winemakers are said to have evaluated themselves and wineries were not even visited in the course of the evaluation. The appeal court of the administrative court then lifted the new classification in February 2007. The further course of action was still unclear. The response from the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois, founded in 2003, as a legal representative of the member companies was awaited. There was even the opinion that the 1978 classification should also be regarded as obsolete and the first classification from 1932 should actually be regarded as the only one.

In 2009 a final decision was finally made and a reorganization was introduced. The new classification no longer refers to the Château (winery), but to the respective one vintage of the wine. The two categories "Cru Bourgeois Superieur" and "Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel" were eliminated without replacement. A classification must now be applied for annually, the only requirement being a minimum size of 7 hectares in Médoc and Haut-Medoc, or 4.5 hectares in the six community appeals. The wines of the Châteaux are tasted by an independent body. For the 2013 vintage, this was done in September 2015, whereby 251 châteaux or wines were classified.

Cru Artisan and Cru Paysan

These two names were used by wine traders as early as the 19th century. They are described in 1868 by the English professor Charles Cocks written and by Michel-Édouard Féret translated "Bordeaux Bible". These small estates often belong to farmers (paysans) or artisans (artisans), who have little viniculture. In the 1930s, however, the names were forgotten. Cru Paysan no longer matters, but on the initiative of small wineries, the "Cru Artisan" class was applied for in 1989 in order to give more leeway with regard to the Cru Bourgeois regulations. The basic requirement is that the owner must be a real person who personally takes care of the vineyard, cellar and sales. They must be small estates (less than five hectares) that produce wines with one of the eight Médoc designations of origin. Cru Artisan was then recognized by the European Union in 1994; the name may appear on the main label.

Additional information

See a list of different classification systems under the keyword Grand Cru, The EU-wide classification system is under the keyword quality system described.

Sources: WIKIPEDIA and wine (André Dominé)
Facsimile Bordeaux classification: antique wine

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