classification of 1855

Definition

Wine

  • a widely influential system introduced in France in 1855 to identify which vineyards produced the best-quality wines, to allow the judges of the prestigious Paris Exhibition to select which wines should be exhibited. The classification system was only applied to two areas from the Bordeaux region, Médoc and Sauternes, with all other wine-producing regions in Bordeaux and the rest of France considered inferior. The classification originally included five levels for red wine and two levels for white wine; these levels were called crus classés (classed growths) and were ranked numerically with premier cru (first growth) as the best, then deuxième cru, troisième cru, quatrième cru, and finally cinquième cru. Originally there were 60 châteaux in the entire classification and just four in the premier cru class of red wine; in 1973 Château Mouton-Rothschild was promoted to premier cru, making five. Only two of the originally classed red wines remain in the same hands. In the white wine category, only 24 châteaux were included; the famous Château d’Yquem was placed in a class of its own, called premier grand cru classé. This classification system has been widely criticised, but it remains in place. Its oddities include the fact that the classification is linked to the ownership of the château, not the specific vineyard, so a vineyard can change ranking overnight if it is sold to a different château in a different class.
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