The original historical
classification of the wines of the Medoc region
At the time of the 1855
Exposition Universelle de Paris (Paris World's Fair in 1855), wine brokers were asked by Napoléon III's government to create a classification of the wines of Bordeaux. They came up with a five-class ranking system of 59 red wines from the
Medoc region, with the exception of Chateau Haut-Brion from Graves (today
Pessac-Leognan), which was included
to the 1855 Medoc Classification for historical reasons and due to its renown. These classes are known as "Growths".
At the time, the rankings were based according to the reputation of the wine estates and to the traded prices of their wines. It is to be noted that there was no qualitative
jugement in the establishment of this classification as the brokers considered that the market price was fully representative of a Growth's quality. Apart from Haut-Brion, all the other wineries are located in the
area comprising Pauillac,
Haut-Medoc on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary. The
sweet white wines of
Sauternes and Barsac were also included in a
separate two-class ranking.
Since 1855, there were only two amendments within the list: the following year in 1856, Chateau Cantemerle was included in the wine classification as
5th growth and in 1973, the influent Baron Philippe de Rothschild managed to have the elevation of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from
2nd Growth to 1st growth status.
Nowadays, the relevance of the historical 1855 classification is largely questionable as many Growths have merged or have acquired neighbour estates which were not included in the original list, thereby possibly effecting the quality of the wines for better or worse.
Today, many non listed growths of the
Medoc area would undoubtedly deserve to appear in an updated classification while a few shouln't even be ranked due to the mediocre quality of their wines. Because of the political and economic foreseeable impact that a rehandling of this historical classification would involve, it is most probable in the future that the "1855" will
forever remain unchanged.