First growths are known as the highest classification of Châteaux Bordeaux wines. Of note, there are five you must try:
- Châteaux Haut Brion
- Châteaux Lafite Rothschild
- Châteaux Latour
- Châteaux Margaux
- Châteaux Mouton Rothschild
What makes even one bottle of these so special? The most exceptional winemakers produce these first growths from the finest terroirs. They’re also some of the most expensive wines in the world. We will examine the absolute cream of the crop in today’s article, so you know which Châteaux Bordeaux wines you can order for the right occasion.
But First, Some History
Most first-growth Châteaux Bordeaux wines are situated in the Medoc region on the left Bordeaux bank, except for the Châteaux Haut Brion winery of Pessac Léognan.
The fast-draining soils of Medoc force the vines to grow deeper in search of water. This adds concentration to the fruit and gives complex favours to the wine. Gravel also retains heat during the summer, helping in the slow and complete ripening of the grapes.
It’s also what gives Medoc wines their classic minerality.
However, the flavours also depend on the individual plots. For example, while Châteaux Lafite Rothschild and Châteaux Mouton Rothschild are located relatively close, the wines are entirely different.
Châteaux Lafite has strong floral and spicy tasting notes, while Châteaux Mouton Rothschild has intense cocoa, cigar, and camphor tasting notes.
Going even further in history, we have a specific French emperor to thank for this trend. In the 19th century, Napoleon III decided to create an unbeatable reputation for fine French wines.
With the help of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, he gathered professional wine experts and brokers and asked them to rank 61 Châteaux Bordeaux wines based on price, reputation, and quality.
The wine brokers presented their classification at “The Exposition Universelle de Paris 1855.”
Five cru classes were present—the First being the highest-quality and highest-priced Bordeaux wine while the Fifth being the lowest in comparison.
Although the official classification of 1855 had four first-growth Châteaux, in 1973, Châteaux Mouton Rothschild was added to the original category.
However, not every Châteaux Bordeaux wine producer agreed to this classification. The producers from Graves (excluding Haut Brion), St Emilion, and Pomerol had their categories.
Also, the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac were ranked in a separate category. One possible reason is that only a tiny fraction of Bordeaux vineyards are used for sweet wines. And because these wines have such low yields, they make up an even smaller percentage of the total wine volume.
One of the earliest Bordeaux vineyards, Châteaux Haut Brion is planted on a terroir of rolling slopes, large rocks, and loamy soils in the Pessac Leognan appellation.
The Grand Vin is slightly different from the other first growths, with Merlot being the dominant grape. The blend is usually 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.
This fine wine reflects firm tannins, complex oaky aromas, and dark fruit flavours.
- 1902 Châteaux Haut-Brion ($6,011)
- 1917 Le Clarence de Haut-Brion – Châteaux Bahans Haut-Brion ($1,103)
The Châteaux Lafite Rothschild vineyard is located in the Pauillac appellation of Medoc and has 276 vines. Of those 276 acres, 172 are dedicated to the Châteaux Lafite Rothschild Grand Vin.
The vines at Châteaux Lafite Rothschild enjoy deep gravel and clay soils, which help bring out the natural power of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
The Grand Vin red wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with about 20% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. This Bordeaux wine is super tannic, with dominant flavours of plum, tobacco, hazelnut, and salinity.
- 1869 Châteaux Lafite Rothschild ($385,993)
- 1934 Châteaux Lafite Rothschild ‘Carruades de Lafite’ ($1,192)
The secret of this Châteaux Bordeaux is the 47-hectare walled Medoc vineyard “L’Enclos.”
The Gironde and the clayey gravel of Pauillac create the perfect microclimate for the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up 90% of the Grand Vin (the other being Merlot and Cabernet Franc.)
As a result, the Grand Vin has excellent tannin, smells great, and is very long and complex—a great wine to add to your collection.
- 1899 Châteaux Latour ($18,656)
- 1929 Châteaux Latour ‘Les Forts de Latour’ ($769)
Châteaux Margaux is located on the left bank of Bordeaux in Medoc. The estate’s vineyard is divided into four parcels, and the fruit from each parcel is treated individually.
The fine Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard lies north of the Châteaux, making up 75% of the premier cru.
The red wine at Châteaux Margaux is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot grape varieties.
The winemaker at Châteaux Margaux practices organic viticulture to preserve Cabernet’s natural tannin, aromas, and concentration.
- 1884 Châteaux Margaux ($17,751)
- 2005 Pavillon Rouge du Châteaux Margaux ($306)
The youngest first-growth estate, Châteaux Mouton Rothschild, is owned by the legendary winemaker Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
Its most precious vineyard lies on “the Grand Plateau,” where the vines enjoy brilliant sun exposure and deep gravel soils.
Like other wines from the Medoc region, Mouton Rothschild’s blend is also dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon.
This Châteaux Bordeaux wine exhibits velvety tannins, delicious creme de cassis notes, and an intense minerality—a perfect addition to your cellar.
- 1945 Châteaux Mouton Rothschild ($17,391)
- 1991 Le Petit Mouton de Mouton Rothschild ($678)
Châteaux Bordeaux Wine Investing Tips
The Grand Vins of first-growth Châteaux Bordeaux wines are excellent bottles that improve with age, making them perfect for cellaring. These wines are rare and expensive, and their prices continue to rise. As indirect examples, a 1998 Perrier-Jouët and 2000 Vintage Krug are now worth four times and nearly twice their original value, respectively!
Most first-growth estates also produce second-growth wines of similar quality but at a fraction of the price. However, even these wines can be expensive, and it is not uncommon for counterfeit bottles to be sold at a high price.
Invest in Châteaux Bordeaux Wines
With Cru Wine, you can buy these first growths with a more direct and enriched experience online! Visit our online store to select your bottles of Châteaux Bordeaux wines today!