160 years ago, a panel of six Bordeaux brokers drew up a ranking of the best Médoc châteaux. Today, the Bordeaux 1855 Classification is arguably the most famous wine classification in the world.
In 1855, on the occasion of the Exposition Universelle in Paris, Napoleon III requested a display of the best wines from Bordeaux. In order to present the wines in a clear and readable form, Lodi-Martin Duffour-Dubergier, the mayor of Bordeaux at the time, approached the Brokers’ Union asking for a list of all red classed growths in the region. Two weeks later, the 1855 Classification was issued through the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce.
The classification compiled a five-tier ranking of 60 of the leading Médoc châteaux and one particularly famous and historic Graves estate, Chateau Haut-Brion. It also created a three-tier classification of the sweet wines from Sauternes and Barsac, in which Château d’Yquem was rated as Superior First Growth, a rank higher than any of the red wine first growths.
The list was based on the existing unofficial classifications and the price that the various wines had been reaching on the market, which was seen to reflected the relative quality of the wines at that time.
Although the classified châteaux have experienced many changes in terms of their numbers, the size of the vineyards and the ownership of the properties, the 1855 Classification remains virtually intact. The only official revision of it happened in 1973 when Château Mouton-Rothschild achieved its promotion from the top of the second growths to become a first growth alongside Châteaux Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Latour and Haut-Brion after years of efforts by Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
A further classification of Cru Bourgeois was established in 1932 for those Médoc estates that were not included in the 1855 Classification.
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