From our last blog we covered the ins and outs of appellations across France and looked at the classification within Bordeaux from The Médoc Classification of 1855 (Les Grands Crus classés en 1855) through to the more recent Saint-Emilion classification created in 1955.
In this article, we want to look a bit further and explore some of the more prestigious wines in the different Bordeaux classification, and to understand why some of these wines continue to be so highly sought after.
Left Bank: The Premiers Crus (The First Growths)
The Premier Grand Crus of Bordeaux include five of the most recognised and famed names in wine with Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild. All five of these estates are from the Left Bank of Bordeaux and continue to hold on to their position as world-leading wineries. While there has been some criticism of the 1855 classification system, these Premier Grand Crus continue to be regarded as some of the most prestigious estates due to a mixture of history, tradition and quality. In fact, a recent Liv-Ex Bordeaux Classification report revealed that these five wineries continue to command some of the highest per case prices.
The Deuxièmes Crus through to Cinquèmes Crus (The Second Growths to Fifth Growths):
While the top five Premier Crus continue to maintain their lead for quality and price, the reputations of the Crus wines that fall within the subsequent growths have had mixed reviews of their positions in the rankings. Critic reviews and scores of these wines can range considerably and alternative Châteaux from different growth brackets can overshadow more senior ranking wines. Wineries such as Château Palmer categorised as Third Growth and Château Lynch-Bages categorised as Fifth Growth, continue to surpass higher-ranked Châteaux due to their high quality and consistency for developing wines with finesse, complexity and longevity.
Right Bank: Saint Emilion and Pomerol
The Saint-Emilion classification, first created in 1955 and updated every 10 years, comprises of 18 Premiers Grands Crus classés and 64 Grands Crus classés. As the classification is continually updated, new wineries can move up to the top Premier Grand Crus A list. Château Angelus and Château Pavie being notable additions alongside Château Ausonne and Château Cheval Blanc. The Right Bank Chateaux differ from their Left Bank counterparts in terms of size, average yields, regulations and grape production (with Merlot dominant over Cabernet Sauvignon). These Châteaux continue to command high prices and have achieved prestige through their quality, consistency and limited productions. An additional Right Bank winery to highlight is Château Petrus which lies within the appellation of Pomerol. This region does not have a classification and is famed for being one of the smaller areas within Bordeaux. Pomerol also benefits from cool clay which helps Merlot to develop more depth and complexity.
.Left Bank: Graves
Jumping back to the Left Bank, Graves AOC to the south of the city of Bordeaux, is also home to world-famous Châteaux. The region produces reds and whites, however, is perhaps most recognised for its sweet white wines, such as Château d’Yquem, a Premier Cru Supérieur. Historically this wine was the only Sauterne listed on the 1855 Classification, and it continues to command high prices due to its complexity, longevity and fine balance of acidity and sweetness. Noble rot or botrytis cinerea also performs exceptionally well within the vineyards on the estate and contributes to the grape’s unique flavours.
These are just some of the many prestigious Châteaux highlighted in Bordeaux. Each Château produces wines with a unique combination of factors which contributes to the prestige of the winery but also the region.