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This famous wine growing area belongs to the French region Bordeaux; the name means "middle country". It lies northwest of the city of Bordeaux on the triangular peninsula between the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne formed mouth funnel Gironde and the Atlantic Ocean. The strip, which is around 70 kilometers long and 5 to 12 kilometers wide and dominated by many vineyards, is occasionally interrupted by pasture, scrub and polders (floodplain). The area is divided into two regional (Bas-Médoc and Haut-Médoc) and six municipal appellations within Haut-Medoc with around 16,000 hectares of vineyards. Médoc is probably the most famous appellation of the Bordelais and also one of the most important and best red wine areas France and the world.

Map of Bordeaux - Appellations


Viticulture came to this area relatively late. In the 17th century, under the guidance of Dutch dam and hydraulic engineering specialists, the coasts were straightened, swampy ground areas drained and streams regulated. Therefore the area was called "La Petite Hollande" for a long time. Since there was no winegrowing in the area at that time, the Dutch bought wines from the "Bordeaux hinterland", which as Skin pays and the wines from there were called "Vin de Haut" or "Hooglansche Wijn" in Dutch. Later, many vineyards were created or small areas acquired and combined into larger goods, including from the famous family Ségur. Médoc has particularly good conditions for viticulture. These are the mild Kima, the very barren and deep gravel soil that exists in many places, which forces the vines to drive their roots deep, and the good one Water drainage in the ground. Despite the close proximity to the Atlantic, the climate is not humid, because the many pine forests provide excellent protection against wind and rain from the west.


Médoc is divided into the northern Bas-Médoc area (mostly confusingly referred to as Médoc because it does not refer to the entire area) with 5,600 hectares and the southern Haut-Médoc area with 4,600 hectares of vineyards (the sizes refer to the two appellations without the six municipalities listed below). The border runs at Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne north of the municipality of Saint-Estèphe. Haut-Médoc begins on the southern community corner of Blanquefort, which is the northern border with the area Graves forms. Both areas are also entitled to their own appellation. They differ by quite different ones Soil types. In Haut-Médoc, the gravelly soil here classifies the wines a bit higher and generally has more breed and finesse. The six famous communities Margaux, Moulis, Listrac-Médoc, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien form their own appeals within Haut-Médoc.

The wines from the other communities carry the origin "Haut-Médoc", the wines from Bas-Médoc simply "Médoc" or rarely "Bas-Médoc". They are made from the typical grape varieties in Bordeaux blend produced, but in the Haut-Médoc rather Cabernet Sauvignon, in Bas-Médoc rather Merlot dominates. The mix of grape varieties differs primarily in whether you Rive droite (right bank) or Rive gauche (left bank) of Garonne / Dordogne respectively. Gironde located. The less significant white wines are mainly made from Sauvignon Blanc pressed. Typical of the Médoc are the numerous great châteaux, which also deserve this designation (as a "castle") from an architectural point of view. But this is not a quality feature, because there are also wineries with very simple buildings where great wines are produced.

Bordeaux classification

The famous one took place in 1855 Bordeaux classification (the cause or the process is described in detail in this keyword). Out of a total of 4,000 châteaux or red wines, only 61 (that's the number from today's perspective, see below) were deemed worthy of being included in the list. With the only exception of Château Haut-Brion out of the area Graves only Châteaux from the Médoc are included. The official presentation took place with great pomp on April 18, 1855. The châteaux were grouped into five classes. Within these five classes, an order was made in descending order based on the average price of the wines. That was at the top of the list Château Lafite-Rothschild.

Bordeaux classification 1855 - facsimile of the handwritten original documents

The ranking at the time is shown in the table below. The class is rarely included on the bottle label today, but often only the text "Grand Cru Classé en 1855" is given. The lesser known Deuxièmes very often indicate their status in order to be known. Even Baron Philippe de Rothschild did not miss it in 1973, increasing to first place with the famous quote "Premier je suis, Second je fus, Mouton ne change" (I am the first, I was the second, Mouton does not change ) on the label designed by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Above all, the "only" châteaux classified as fourth and fifth crus usually omit this in order not to make their "low" rank too obvious.

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

To date, surprisingly, there have been only two changes to the list published in April 1855. The well known is the order of the Château Mouton-Rothschild. After decades of struggle by Philippe de Rothschild (1902-1988) it was ranked from second to first place. The official document was signed by the then Agriculture Minister Jacques Chirac (born 1932), who later became the French President. Furthermore, it was decided that the naming of the now five Premier Crus is not a ranking, but according to the alphabet. But with one exception: Château Haut-Brion is the only non-Médoc winery that always comes last. The lesser known change is that of the "forgotten" Chateau Cantemerle. This good was not yet included on the list published in April and was only added at the end in December.

Compared to 1855, however, there have been other changes, some of them considerable, to date. Most of the châteaux have changed their vines and their size over time. There was some considerable growth. In contrast to the classification in Saint-Emilion the boundaries of the Médoc wineries can change without this affecting 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 or vineyards. The name of the winery is, so to speak, an unchangeable quality feature and trademark. However, this continuity actually applies to most châteaux.

The number of "61 classified châteaux" is sometimes unclear, because there are only 59 names in the original list from 1855. The reason for the difference is the division of property and the abandonment of a good. The former Chateau Léoville was divided into three as early as 1826, but was rated as a winery. The two Châteaux Pichon-Longueville and Batailley were only split in two after 1855, so they are only included once. And the Château Dubignon no longer exists, the vineyards migrated to Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry, Château Margaux and Château Palmer. There were also some name changes.

Only two of the wineries classified in 1855 are still owned by the same family as they were then, that is Château Langoa-Barton and Château Mouton-Rothschild. The 61 châteaux now cover around 3,000 hectares of vineyards with around 20% of Médoc production. The five premier cru classé goods are “national cultural assets” and may not be sold to foreigners; a possible purchaser must be French. In the column "R" the order in the original list and under "Name 1855" the names at that time:



NAME 1855


Premier Cru Classé (5)

Château Lafite-Rothschild 1 Lafite Pauillac
Château Latour 3rd Latour Pauillac
Chateau Margaux 2nd Margaux Margaux
Château Mouton-Rothschild - Mouton - was 1st at Deux. Pauillac
Château Haut-Brion (Exception, see above) 4th Haut Brion Pessac-Léognan

Deuxième Cru Classé (14)

Château Brane-Cantenac 8th Brane-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux
Château Cos d'Estournel 11 Cos Destournel Saint-Estèphe
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 10th Ducru Beau Caillou Saint-Julien
Château Durfort-Vivens 5 Durfort Margaux
Château Gruaud-Larose 6 Gruaud-Laroze Saint-Julien
Chateau Lascombes 7 Lascombe Margaux
Château Léoville-Barton 4th Léoville - valued as 1 flat share Saint-Julien
Château Léoville-Las-Cases 4th Léoville - valued as 1 flat share Saint-Julien
Château Léoville-Poyferré 4th Léoville - valued as 1 flat share Saint-Julien
Château Montrose 12th Montrose Saint-Estèphe
Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 9 Pichon Longueville - was 1 Pauillac
Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse 9 Pichon Longueville - was 1 Pauillac
Château Rauzan-Gassies 3rd Rauzan-Gassies Margaux
Château Rauzan-Ségla 2nd Rauzan-Ségla Margaux

Troisième Cru Classé (14)

Château Boyd-Cantenac 7 Boyd-Cantenac Cantenac-Margaux
Château Calon-Ségur 12th Calon Saint-Estèphe
Château Cantenac Brown 7 Cantenac Brown Cantenac-Margaux
Château d'Issan 2nd d'Issan Margaux
Château Desmirail 10th Desmirail Margaux
Château Ferriere 13 Ferriere Margaux
Château Giscours 5 Giscours Labarde-Margaux
Chateau Kirwan 1 Kirwan Cantenac-Margaux
Château Lagrange 3rd Lagrange Saint-Julien
Château La Lagune 9 Lalagune Ludon
Château Langoa-Barton 4th Langoa Saint-Julien
Château Malescot Saint-Exupéry 6 Saint-Exupéry Margaux
Château Marquis d'Alesme-Becker 14 Becker Soussans-Margaux
Château Palmer 8th Palmer Margaux
There is no longer 11 Dubignon Margaux

Quatrième Cru Classé (10)

Château Beychevelle 9 Ch. De Beychevele Saint-Julien
Château Branaire-Ducru 4th Branaire Saint-Julien
Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild 5 Duhart Pauillac
Château La Tour Carnet 7 Carnet Saint-Laurent
Château Lafon-Rochet 8th Rochet Saint-Estèphe
Château Marquis-de-Terme 11 Marquis de Termes Margaux
Château Pouget 6 Pouget-Lassale Cantenac-Margaux
Château Prieuré-Lichine 10th Le Prieuré Cantenac-Margaux
Château Saint-Pierre 1 Saint Pierre Saint-Julien
Château Talbot 2nd Talbot Saint-Julien

Cinquième Cru Classé (18)

Chateau Batailley 2nd Batailley - today 2 shared apartments Pauillac
Château Belgrave 12th Coutenceau Saint-Laurent
Chateau Cantemerle 17th Cantemerle - taillight Macau
Château Clerc Milon 15 Clerc Milon Pauillac
Château Cos Labory 14 Cos Labory Saint-Estèphe
Château Croizet-Bages 16 Croizet bages Pauillac
Château d'Armailhac 8th Darmailhac Pauillac
Chateau Dauzac 7 Dauzac Labarde-Margaux
Château de Camensac 13 Camensac Saint-Laurent
Château du Tertre 9 La Tertre Arsac-Margaux
Château Grand-Puy Ducasse 4th Artigues-Arnaud Pauillac
Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 3rd Grand Puy Pauillac
Château Haut-Bages-Libéral 10th Skin bages Pauillac
Chateau Haut-Batailley 2nd Batailley - today 2 shared apartments Pauillac
Château Lynch-Bages 5 Lynch Pauillac
Château Lynch-Moussas 6 Lynch Moussas Pauillac
Château Pedesclaux 11 Pedesclaux Pauillac
Chateau Pontet-Canet 1 Canet Pauillac

Super seconds

The unofficial term “Super Seconds” is used to denote those deuxièmes châteaux that are close to or at premier cru level due to their outstanding wine qualities. A new classification would put them at the top. The experts do not agree on the list, but the following are frequently mentioned: Cos-d'Estournel, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Gruaud-Larose, Léoville-Las-Cases, Montrose, Pichon-Longueville Comtesse, Pichon-Longueville Baron and Rauzan- Ségla. Many experts also believe that the Cinquième-Châteaux (5th) Grand-Puy-Lacoste and Lynch-Bages, and the Troisième-Château (3rd) Palmer would deserve 2nd place. See a list of various classification systems under the keyword Grand Cru. The EU-wide classification system is under the keyword Quality system described.

Map: By Domenico-de-ga at Wikipedia , CC BY-SA 3.0 , link
Changes from the original by Norbert Tischelmayer 2017
Facsimile Bordeaux classification: antique wine

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