The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux Wine

The 1855 Classification of Bordeaux Wine

The Bordeaux region of France has quality hierarchies for nearly all of its fine wine.  However, the most famous and important example is the 1855 classification of Medoc and Graves, which was created at the request of Napoleon III to be presented at the Exposition Universelle de Paris, an event similar to the World's Fair held today.  Its purpose was to showcase the best of what France had to offer in a myriad of categories, including wine.

The classification included the best 61 châteaux of the time from the Medoc and Graves region.  Although, only one Graves wine (Chateau Haut-Brion) made it into the rankings.  A separate Graves classification was created in 1959.

The châteaux were ranked into five tiers, known as growths (crus), based on quality which was determined by their selling price at the time.  More than 165 years later, this historic classification remains unchanged, with two exceptions:

  • Château Cantemerle was added in 1856, for the simple reason that it was left off by accident in 1855.
  • More importantly, Château Mouton Rothschild was promoted from Second Growth to First Growth status in 1973.

Since 1855, you could argue that the quality of wine being produced by these châteaux justify their rankings to be upgraded or downgraded, but for the most part, the their placement holds true today.

The Official 1855 Classification

First Growths (Premières Crus)

Château Lafite Rothschild (Pauillac)
Château Latour (Pauillac)
Château Margaux (Margaux)
Château Haut-Brion (Pessac-Léognan)
Château Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac)

Second Growths (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-Médoc)
Château Desmirail (Margaux)
Château Calon-Ségur (St.-Estèphe)
Château Ferrière (Margaux)
Château Marquis-d'Alesme-Becker (Margaux)

Fourth Growths (Quatrièmes Crus)

Château St.-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 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 Haut-Bages Libéral (Pauillac)
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)

It is important to understand that the classified wines above are from the Left Bank of Bordeaux, which is situated on the left bank of the Gironde estuary.  Right Bank wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion, such as Petrus and Cheval Blanc were either not yet producing wine in 1855 or were still considered simple wines.  Ironically, some of the top Right Bank wines sell for more today than even the Firth Growths.