Wine classification is a way to standardise the description of wine so that a customer has an indication of the quality of the wine. In Bordeaux it’s really important because of the impact on prices. As this is an introduction to the wines of Bordeaux we won’t be going deep but it will help to know some of the terms. In 1855 Emperor Napoleon III asked for a classification for Bordeaux wines for an international exhibition taking place in Paris.
A group of buyers ranked wines according to the wine producers reputation and trading price which was presumed to be an indicator of quality. The top red wines were ranked by importance from first to fifth growths or cru with Premier Cru being the very best red wine.
All the wines on the list with with one exception came from the Médoc region of Bordeaux. The one exception was a wine from the Graves region – Château Haut-Brion. Other Premier Cru examples include Château Lafite and Château Margaux.
White wines were not so popular then and only had three grades – Premier Cru Supérieur, Premier Cru and Deuxième Crus. The only Premier Cru Supérieur was Yquem (now Château d’Yquem) Other regions in Bordeaux have other classifications such as St Emilion which has Premiers Grands Crus classés A or classés B and even a Grands crus classés
Bordeaux Regional Classifications
There are seven regional Appellations d’origine controllée (AOC) that can be used throughout the Gironde departement. These include Bordeaux Rouge, Bordeaux Clairet, Bordeaux Rosé, Bordeaux Blanc and a Crémant de Bordeaux which is a sparkling wine.
Bordeaux Supérieur Rouge AOC has more strict requirements in terms of the vineyards that can produce it – planting is denser resulting in stronger vines with slightly higher sugar and resulting alcohol content. Bordeaux Supérieur Blanc are sweet wines