Understand French wine labels (2) – Classification of 1855

In the post on Understand French wine labels, I talked about what you always find on a French label. Now, there is something I did not mention about the Château Margaux’s label, it is the wording “Premier Grand Cru Classé”, which appears only in certain cases.

“Premier Grand Cru Classé” stands for a first growth (premier cru) of the wine classification of 1855. Upon the request of Emperor Napoleon III, a wine classification was created for the international exhibition of 1855. The ranking was made according to the Château’s reputation and trading price. The result was the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

The classification is divided into 5 growths (crus) and it only regards Bordeaux wines from the Medoc region, except Château Haut-Brion, which is from the Graves region. The wines are ranked by descending order and the first growths (premiers crus) are the best wines. In the first growth category, there are only five wines!

Believe it or not, but this classification is still valid today, at least for reference. The classification was modified only twice: in 1856, Château Cantemerle was added as a fifth growth and, in 1973, Château Mouton Rothschild was elevated from a second growth to a first growth.

If we come back to our example, the label that reads “Premier Grand Cru Classé” clearly indicates Château Margaux is a first growth of 1855. Therefore, it is one of the 5 best wines of Bordeaux (at least in 1855…)

The wines from the classification of 1855 contain only 5 appellations d’origine controlée (AOC) listed below (to the exclusion of Chateau Haut Brion, AOC: Pessac-Léognan, Graves):
– Pauillac
– Margaux
– St. Estèphe
– St. Julien
– Haut-Médoc

The Classification of 1855
Châteaux are listed with their AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée).

First Growths (Premiers or 1er Crus)

Château Lafite Rothschild, Pauillac
Château Latour, Pauillac
Château Margaux, Margaux
Château Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan, Graves
Château Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac,  (reclassified from Second Growth status in 1973)

Second Growths ( Seconds Crus, or Deuxièmes Crus)

Château Rauzan-Ségla, Margaux
– Château Rauzan-Gassies, Margaux
– Château Léoville-Las Cases, St.-Julien
Château Léoville-Poyferré, St.-Julien
Château Léoville Barton, St.-Julien
Château Durfort-Vivens, Margaux
– Château Gruaud-Larose, St.-Julien
Château Lascombes, Margaux
Château Brane-Cantenac, Margaux
Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac
Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, St.-Julien
Château Cos d’Estournel, St.-Estèphe
Château Montrose, St.-Estèphe

Third Growths (Troisièmes Crus)

– Château Kirwan, Margaux
Château d’Issan, Margaux
– Château Lagrange, St.-Julien
Château Langoa Barton, St.-Julien
Château Giscours, Margaux
Château Malescot St. Exupéry, Margaux
Château Cantenac-Brown, Margaux
Château Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux
Château Palmer, Margaux
Château La Lagune, Haut-Medoc
Château Desmirail, Margaux
– Château Calon-Ségur, St.-Estèphe
Château Ferrière, Margaux
Château Marquis d’Alesme Becker, Margaux
– Château Dubignon, Margaux (discontinued)

Fourth Growths (Quatrièmes Crus)

Château Saint-Pierre, St.-Julien
Château Talbot, St.-Julien
Château Branaire-Ducru, St.-Julien
Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild, Pauillac
Château Pouget, Margaux
Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc
Château Lafon-Rochet, St.-Estèphe
Château Beychevelle, St.-Julien
– Château Prieuré-Lichine, Margaux
Château Marquis de Terme, Margaux

Fifth Growths (Cinquièmes Crus)

Château Pontet-Canet, Pauillac
– Château Batailley, Pauillac
– Château Haut-Batailley, Pauillac
Château Haut-Bages-Libéral, Pauillac
– Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac
– Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse, Pauillac
Château Lynch-Bages, Pauillac
– Château Lynch-Moussas, Pauillac
– Château Dauzac, Margaux
– Château d’Armailhac, Pauillac
– Château du Tertre, Margaux
Château Pédesclaux, Pauillac
– Château Belgrave, Haut-Médoc
Château de Camensac, Haut-Médoc
– Château Cos Labory, St.-Estèphe
– Château Clerc-Milon, Pauillac
– Château Croizet Bages, Pauillac
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc (added in 1856)

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