The Classification of 1855
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Distinguish Appellation from Classification in Bordeaux
- Appellation refers to typicity
- Classification refers quality
Describe Bordeaux's Commercial history
- Wine was intended for export, not internal consumption
- British: Best, Domestic consumption, Purchased Graves and Medoc
- Dutch: Inexpensive, Worldwide consumption, Purchased Palus
What was the "Dutch wick" and what purpose did it serve?
- Paper coated with sulfur was lit and dropped into barrel
- Barrels lasted longer
What was the Bordeaux Jurade?
- City council who oversaw the Bordeaux marketplace
- Their price list of 1647-10-27 illustrates Dutch demand:
- Graves/Medoc wine was 26 ecus
- Palus: 30 to 35 ecus
Describe the British wine market
- 16C: Sufficient to specify "Graves"
- 17C: French brought in Dutch to reclaim land north of Bordeaux City (rise of Medoc)
- 18C: rise of communes
- 1740s: Haut-Brion, Margaux, Latour, Lafite (known as first growths)
Describe the pricing structure in mid-18C Bordeaux
- Based on Supply and Demand
- Driven by British market
- First growths: owned by wealthy nobility
- Second growths: owned by lesser nobles (Durfort, Leoville, Gruaud)
- Crus Bourgeois: owned by the middle class
Name some early classifications of Bordeaux wine
- 1787 Thomas Jefferson
- 1813 William Johnston (negotiant)
- 1816 Andre Jullien (11 classed growths in 2 levels)
- 1824 William Franck (33 classed growths in 4 levels)
- 1833 J. Exshaw (54 classed growths in 5 levels; 29 classed sweet whites in 3 levels)
- 1850 Charles Cocks (63 classed growths in 5 levels; 34 sweet whites in 3 levels - the bible of Bordeaux wine)
- 1855 - Armand d'Armailhacq (62 classed growths in 5 levels)
Name the criteria for Bordeaux wine classifications
- Sales price: basis of over 2 dozen classifications
- Indirectly related to terroir
Describe the 1787 Jefferson Classification ("Transcription")
- Thomas Jefferson recorded 16 classed growths in Bordeaux
- Now third growth: Calon, Mouton, Lagrange, Langoa, d'Issan
- Crus Bourgeois pushed down a level
Describe the 1813 William Johnston Classification
- 29 classed growths
- Second growths enlarged: Lascombes, Brane, Mouton (moving up)
- Third growths enlarged: Kirwan, Malescot, Pichon Longueville, Ducru
- Fourth growths: Beychevelle, Saint-Pierre, Pouget
What involvement did Napoleon II have in the 1855 Classification?
- The Universal Exposition in Paris was organized on his orders in March 1853
- He never even saw the display of Bordeaux wines (in an annex to the main exhibition hall)
What was the occasion of the classification?
- 1855 World's Fair (Universal Exposition in Paris)
- Luxury goods and technical developments were intended for display
- Bordeaux wine was considered neither (a substitute for water)
What prompted Bordeaux to participate in the world's fair?
- The Burgundy Organizing Committee sent Bordeaux a letter asking if they wanted to have a joint display
- The Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce was more closely connected to the wine trade and became the main mover in the creation of the 1855 classification
Describe the actions taken by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce in 1855
- January: Solicited 6 bottles from any Bordeaux property (not just classed which they "undressed" with a uniform label. Lodi-Martin Duffour-Dubergier (head of Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce) thought displaying identical bottles would not be interesting so he commissioned a large scale map of Bordeaux.
- April 5: Requested a list of Bordeaux's best red and white wines from the Union of Brokers
- April 18: Union of Brokers submitted their list ranked by price within each level (5 levels Medoc, 3 levels Sauternes)
- May 1: sent to Paris (so only 4 months to get ready)
How did the Union of Brokers create their list?
- Well-known classification based on sales transactions
- Commercial reputation established over many decades
- No tasting
- No request for wines
- Properties which did not send wines to Paris were included
Describe the original 1855 Classification
- 60 properties in the Medoc + Haut Brion in Graves
- 5 levels for reds: 61 = 4->5 + 15->14 + 14 + 10 + 18 (incl. Cantemerle)
- 3 levels for sweet whites: 26 = 1 + 11 + 14
Name the levels for sweet white wines in the 1855 Classification
- First Growth Superieur: Chateau d'Yquem
- First Growths: Suduiraut, Climens, Guiraud, Rieussec, ... 9 Sauternes + 2 Barsac
- Second Growths: Caillou, de Malle, Filhot, ,... 8 Barsac + 6 Sauternes
What changes have been made to the 1855 Classification?
- 1855-09-16: Chamber of Commerce wrote the Union of Brokers to add Cantemerle as a 5th growth. Mme de Villeneuve Durfort had sold directly to Dutch but provided records to prove sales prices.
- 1973: Mouton-Rothschild elevated from 2nd Growth to 1st Growth
Why did the owner of Haut Brion open a tavern in London (after great fire in 1666)?
Highlight wine from a particular estate rather than a region
Why were Graves and Saint-Emilion omitted from the 1855 Classification?
- Price (the best 1849 Graves and Saint-Emilion wines sold for 875 Francs in 1854)
Name some MYTHS about the 1855 Classification
- It was made at the request of Napoleon III
- Only wines from the Medoc were considered
- A request for wines was made
- A great tasting was held
- This was an exception undertaking
- It has only been changed once in its history
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