Bordeaux 1855 Classification

As wine buffs will know, red wines of the Bordeaux left bank are classified into five levels – from first to fifth growths.

The classification was introduced for the Universal Exposition in Paris and was based on the prices for which the wines were sold at that time. There was no tasting and even properties which did not send wines to Paris were included.

Since 1856 there has been only one change to the classification – in 1973, Mouton-Rothschild was elevated to first-growth (doubtless the wealth of the Rothschilds had no influence at all on that decision).

The classification was done pre-phylloxera and before odium and other diseases struck the vines, which resulted in significant changes to the grape varieties grown in the vineyards.

There have also been changes in the vineyards over time – in 1855 the total amount of cultivated land owned by the 61 chateaux was 2,650 hectares; today they cumulatively own almost 3,500 hectares of vines. In addition, many vineyards have also changed in their makeup as they bought, sold and traded parcels of vines over the year.  A chateau can buy more land and the new site inherits the classification of the owner.

Surely it is time the wine world accepts that this classification is no longer relevant and consigns it to the bin!