Presentations of the classification of French wines: Great vintage, first vintage, Bourgeois vintage...
The most prestigious part of my catalog just a click away!! (page is under construction on 13th August 2021)
1. Great Vintage, Classified Great Vintage and Bourgeois Vintage from Bordeaux:
1.1 Classified red Great Vintage from medoc:
In 1855, Napoleon III asked for a classification of the wines of Médoc and Sauternes, 57 domains in red (including one of the serious ones...) which corresponded to the most famous and most expensive wines were retained.
Depending on the taste qualities judged at the time, they were broken down into Premier Grands Crus Classés, Seconds, Thirds, Fourths and Fifth Grands Crus Classés.
Their number has grown to 61 now, with some areas having been divided.
Appellations: Haut-Médoc, Pauillac, Margaux, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien (plus an intruder in Graves, Château Haut-Brion).
1.2 Classified Great Vintage sweet wine from sauternais:
Still, so in 1855, 21 Sauternes estates were selected, corresponding to the most famous and most expensive wines.
Depending on the taste qualities judged at the time, they were declined into Premier Grand Cru Classé Exceptionnel (Château d'Yquem), Premier and Second Grand Cru Classé.
Their number has grown to 27 now, with some areas having been divided.
Some prestigious estates have not been classified, to our surprise (Châteaux Gilette and Raymond-Lafon in particular).
1.3 Classified Great Vintage from Graves (red and white wines):
Classified in 1953 and 1959, in red as in white, they represent the apotheosis of the wines of grave.
Depending on the years and the estates, we can read on the labels: "Grand Cru de Graves", "Cru Classé de Léognan", "Grand Cru Classé"...
13 domains in red and 9 in white.
1.4 Great Vintage from Saint-Emilion:
Saint-Émilion, certainly the most famous appellation in the world...
First official classification in 1955, broken down into:
Saint-Émilion Grand Cru (about 200 estates),
Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé (61 estates in 2020) as well as 14 estates in Grand Cru Classé B and 4 in Grand Cru Classé A (Ausone, Cheval Blanc, and since 2012: Angélus and Pavie).
the classification is reviewed regularly and gives rise to numerous lawsuits given the economic stakes.
According to the latest news, Ausone and Cheval Blanc will no longer be in the 2022 ranking...
1.5 Bourgeois Vintage:
This denomination only exists in Bordeaux and concerns only the red wines of the Médoc, with a few exceptions (2 or 3 Sauternes are entitled to this title, and some Blaye or Fronsac).
Classification a little less glorious than that of the Grands Crus, but allows nice surprises at softer prices!!
Initiated in 1932, the classification is reviewed every year.
It can be broken down into Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, Grand Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois exceptional... depending on the year.
Cover in 2020 about 30% of the production of the Médoc, a little more than 230 domains have been able to access it.
Having tasted a large number of them, I can only confirm what the critics have said: "some are better than many Grands Crus Classés", I will leave it to you to form your own opinion!
A classification of Pomerol wines was proposed in 1943, it was canceled in 1944, since then, nothing in sight... Many areas would however be worthy of honoring themselves with the title of Grand Cru Classé!
At the top, we can mention Petrus as well as Château Le Pin with a more than confidential production.
Then would come the Châteaux L'évangile, La Fleur Petrus, La Conseillante, Hosanna, Clinet, Trotanoy, Vieux Château Certan and many others...
2. Great vintage and first vintage from Bourgogne:
Common point to all the Grands Crus and Premiers Crus of Burgundy:
their areas are very small compared to those of the Bordeaux Grands Crus and shared between many owners who sometimes produce less than a thousand bottles per cuvée, resulting in extreme rarity and high prices...
Some appellations are only produced by a single estate (Romanée-Conti, La Grande Rue, La Romanée, for example).
2.1 Côte de Nuits
Red Grands Crus: absolute summit of Pinot Noir, the Côte de Nuit is the cradle of the red Grand Crus of Burgundy with prestigious appellations born in 1935: Chambertin, Romanée-Conti, Clos de Vougeot...
White Grand Cru: only one, impossible to find: the white Musigny!!
Premiers Crus: very numerous in red, on very fragmented and small areas (a few hectares, even less), only one in white: the Clos blanc de Vougeot (a little easier to find than the Musigny blanc).
2.2 Côte de Beaune
Red Grands Crus: Only one, the red Corton, available in several climates (Corton Renardes, Corton Pougets etc...) depending on the locality of its terroir.
White Grands Crus: the almost monopoly of Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet... To which is added Corton-Charlemagne and the extremely rare Corton Blanc.
Premiers Crus: very numerous in red as in white, on very fragmented and small areas (a few hectares, even less), among the best known: Pommard, Santenay in red, and Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet in White.
Only whites in the Chablis appellation!
Grands Crus: 7 climates are classified as Grand Cru, average area of about fifteen hectares.
Premiers Crus: 79 localities grouped into 40 climates are classified as Premier Cru. Most are aged in stainless steel vats and have subtle differences...
2.4 Other regions from Bourgogne:
There are no other Grands Crus of Burgundy than those mentioned above, but one can find Premiers Crus in Côte Chalonnaise (Mercurey, Givry etc).
And since 2020 the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation has also been entitled to 4 Premiers Crus spread over 22 climates.
2.5 Climates and localities from Bourgogne:
Many bottles of Burgundy that are neither Grand Cru nor Premier Cru bear the indication of a locality or a climate, for example the red Meursault "clos de la Baronne" from winemaker René Manuel.
The locality or climate can be followed by the mention "monopole", these bottles are quite sought after because they can have typical aromas and only cover very small areas of vines, often much less than one hectare, which induces a production very low annual.
More than 1350 climates have been referenced in the Côte d'Or and are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Since each climate can be exploited by several winegrowers, a legend says that one human life is not enough to explore the entire Côte d'Or wine region!
Not to mention that Chablis, the Côte Chalonnaise and the Mâconnais also have a large number of climats and localities.
Notice to amateur travelers and the curious!
3. Great vintage from Alsace
The Alsatian vineyard comprises 51 terroirs classified as Grands Crus.
The permitted grape varieties are: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris, with one exception: one of them may contain Sylvaner.
An intermediate classification between the AOC Alsace and the Grands Crus is under study. It would give birth to a selection of Premiers Crus.
Some old labels may mention "Premier Cru", but without validated classification...
4. Great vintage and first vintage from Champagne
Grands Crus of Champagne: Champagnes whose grapes come from 17 well-listed communes are classified as Grand Cru.
Champagne Premiers Crus: Champagnes whose grapes come from 44 well-listed communes are classified as Premier Cru.
The purchase prices of the grapes are then 10 to 20% higher than those of unclassified Champagnes.
In all cases, the grape varieties used are Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay.
5. Classified vintage from Provence:
In 1977 a ministerial decree authorized the classification as "Cru Classé" of 23 estates in Provence which over the years have been reduced to 18.
Despite protests from Bordeaux winegrowers...
They are quite difficult to find, especially in older vintages.
6. Great vintage from Roussillon:
Some wines of the Banyuls appellation can claim the mention "Grand Cru", they must contain more than 75% Grenache and be matured for more than 30 months before marketing.
Like all sweet wines, their aging potential is astonishing and can happily exceed a century!
7. Great vintage and first vintage from Loire
Premier Cru and Grand Cru appellations have existed in Loire wines for more than 70 years.
Reserved for sweet wines from Layon, Chaume, Quart de Chaume and Bonnezeaux, they have evolved over the years...
You will find these mentions on very old post-war bottles or on more recent ones, from the 2010s!!
8. Great vintage from other regions of France
For all the wines that come from regions or appellations without classification but that are off the beaten track, I have created a section "Assimilated Grand Cru".
You will find there in particular Pomerols, such as Petrus, Pays d'Oc wines, such as Clos d'Ora, Saumur-Champigny from Clos Rougeard...
I invite you to review them!
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