Why 1855 is so important to wine

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Bordeaux is to the wine what Rolls Royce is to autos, the pinnacle of class. It’s what every wine lover lusts to try and will pay a king’s ransom to do so. For all other regions that aspire to produce great wines, Bordeaux is the “gold standard”.  In the best vintages, Bordeaux produces wines that are so confounding that trying to put their brilliance into words is nearly impossible. Due to the quality of this region, the châteaux (any wine producing house) were forced into classes at the request of Napoleon III, in an attempt to create a hierarchy of quality. But is this class system necessary today?

To start to understand the intent of the Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855, we must first understand the man who requested it and why. Napoleon III was in many ways a civil visionary that was pleased by straight lines, rationality and order. These characteristics are best illustrated by looking at a map of Paris. 

Haussmann's renovation of Paris gave the city its present layout of long, straight, wide boulevards that run parallel to one another with narrower cross streets running perpendicular. The symmetry and order is what made Napoleon buy into this concept.

During the renovation of Paris, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann created the controversial urban plan that we witness today and to which Napoleon enthusiastically approved of. With long, straight boulevards running parallel to the Seine River, the design was unheard of at the time. Although provocative, the easy to navigate grid of roads is a thing of beauty and played into Napoleon’s insatiable desire for order.

Similarly, Napoleon requested a classification of Bordeaux’s châteaux for the upcoming Exposition Universelle de Paris. The goal of this classification would be to provide a ranking system that was easy to understand for those importers visiting the agricultural venue at the Expo. For the purposes of the classification, the châteaux were ranked based on two parameters: reputation for quality and trading price at the time.

All of the châteaux in the classification hail from the Médoc region except for one exemplary house from Graves, Château Haut-Brion.  Since this classification leaves out the châteaux situated on the right bank of the Gironde estuary as well as other regions in Bordeaux, it’s not an all encompassing classification.*  With that being said, it’s the most significant and highly-regarded classification in the wine world. Not bad considering it was only meant to be temporary.

The 1855 classification broke down the châteaux into five categories, knows and Crus (meaning “growths”).  The following is how the market at the time dictated the hierarchy of wine:

One of the original four Premiers Crus per the 1855 Classification, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild.

Premiers Crus (First Growth)

  • Château Haut-Brion
  • Château Lafite-Rothschild
  • Château Latour
  • Château Margaux

Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths)

  • Château Brane-Cantenac
  • Château Cos d’Estournel
  • Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
  • Château Durfort-Vivens
  • Château Gruaud-Larose
  • Château Lascombes
  • Château Léoville Barton
  • Château Léoville-Las Cases
  • Château Léoville-Poyferré
  • Château Montrose
  • Château Mouton-Rothschild (reclassified as a First Growth in 1973)
  • Château Pichon Longueville Baron
  • Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande
  • Château Rauzan-Gassies
  • Château Rauzan-Ségla

Troisièmes Crus (Third Growths)

  • Château Boyd-Cantenac
  • Château Calon-Ségur
  • Château Cantenac-Brown
  • Château Desmirail
  • Château Dubignon (absorbed by Malescot St. Exupéry in the post- phylloxera** era)
  • Château Ferrière
  • Château Giscours
  • Château d’Issan
  • Château Kirwan
  • Château Lagrange
  • Château La Lagune
  • Château Langoa Barton
  • Château Malescot St. Exupéry
  • Château Marquis d’Alesme Becker
  • Château Palmer

Quatrièmes Crus (Fourth Growths)

  • Château Beychevelle
  • Château Branaire-Ducru
  • Château Duhart-Milon-Rothschild
  • Château Lafon-Rochet
  • Château La Tour Carnet
  • Château Marquis de Terme
  • Château Pouget
  • Château Prieuré-Lichine
  • Château Saint-Pierre
  • Château Talbot

Cinquièmes Crus (Fifth Growths)

  • Château d’Armailhac
  • Château Batailley
  • Château Belgrave
  • Château Cantemerle (added as a Fifth Growth in 1856)
  • Château Clerc-Milon
  • Château Cos Labory
  • Château Croizet Bages
  • Château Dauzac
  • Château de Camensac
  • Château du Tertre
  • Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse
  • Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste
  • Château Haut-Bages-Libéral
  • Château Haut-Batailley
  • Château Lynch-Bages
  • Château Lynch-Moussas
  • Château Pédesclaux
  • Château Pontet-Canet

As you can see, there were few modifications to this Napoleonic classification after it was released and only two of significance. The reclassification of Château Mouton-Rothschild marks the only time a château has moved up in status and the addition of Château Cantemerle marks the only time a château has joined the elite.

This organizational benchmark has proven its worth through the years. It’s guided would be importers of the 1850s just as much as it’s guided would be consumers today as to the respective quality the châteaux. Have some chateaux improved? Of course. Are some non-classified châteaux making better wines than some classified growths? Sure. However the overall brilliance of this framework is its continued relevance and how it’s taken something that could’ve been quite confusing and made it brilliantly simple. In this simplicity, a legend was solidified.

*Part of this project was also the classification of the white wines of the Médoc, namely from the Sauternes and Barsac region.  This classification is of lesser importance for this article, however it is worth being aware of.

** Phylloxera is a louse that is native to North America.  In the 1850s it was brought to Europe for research and in the 1860s it spread rapidly nearly destroying the French wine industry.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Why 1855 is so important to wine

  1. Matthew Billet

    As someone who has tasted all of the first growths, and many of the other classified wines listed above (many of which I may in fact own), I regret to point out that these wines are grossly over-valued as to quality and price. There are many perhaps and arguably equally good wines that are far less astronomically overpriced. And, the average consumer would also need to factor in that these wines generally require 15-25 years of impeccable storage before they will actually be found “perfect” to taste, or alternately that they have gone by because of cork or storage short-comings.
    When I drink a great bordeaux wine it is still a wine of describable merit. It is a blend of as many as 5? grapes. My point is not to derogate this kind of wine, but to emphasize the fact that it is simply wine… and that we need to de-mystify it. Many people might not even like this wine because of its style… or the fact that Cab/Merlot based wines aren’t what rings their personal bell.
    And, these wines can be very different amongst themselves. For example, I find that in tasting the first growths it is often better not to taste them side by side. This is because although they all have merit (at $500 to $2500
    a bottle they can’t really just be crap, they each have particular unique merit), they don’t individually show well side by side. My personal taste seems always to lean toward the Margaux, and the others seem pale by comparison. That is my personal palate.
    Each wine tasted by itself has significant merit. But, there is a reason why when tasted blind they often lose out of such American favorites as Ridge Montebello, Montelena, or Dominus. Unfortunately, the mystification of these wines, the overpricing of these wines, has actually made them unapproachable and damn near irrelevant.

  2. Matthew,

    There’s some truth to what you say; however it seems as if you carry a huge prejudice towards Bordeaux at this point. I don’t mean to sound indignant, but to cast the region in that light, as astronomically overpriced and inaccessible is quite inaccurate on the whole.

    There are plenty of astounding wines from the region that are priced quite fairly, especially compared to their counterparts from other regions. Quite honestly, I’d rather pay for Kirwan for less, or Smith-Haut-Lafitte or Malescot St. Exupéry than Dominus at the same price (and there’s plenty of other examples), even if they’re as young as ’05 or ’03 (’05 Malescot was staggering…infanticide or not). If you truly want to “demystify” wine, the first realization is that it doesn’t have to age for 15-20+ years to be majestic. You can drink it after 7 years and it will be fantastic, 4 years and it’ll be good too. A great wine doesn’t start out as shit; it’s great along the whole journey. However, as you said, it all comes down to taste and what you enjoy is what you enjoy. So, I’d encourage those readers that have never enjoyed Bordeaux to do so rather than have your bias push them away from a potentially special experience.

    Returning to the “demystifying” wine slant, it’s demystified! There’s so much information out there that fine wine is no longer this mysterious beverage consumed by the uber-wealthy elite. We know it’s just fermented juice; however some of the greatest wine ever comes from Bordeaux. With every craft or profession, there are tiers of excellence. Bordeaux happens to be seated at the pinnacle of their craft. So to take a step back and appreciate and analyze it for something above the largely homogenous stuff that’s out there is more than appropriate. I haven’t heard of any ’84 Dunn or ’82 Montelena knocking anyone’s socks off, however the ’82 Leoville las Cases and ’86 Latour rocked my world.

    The other aspect of Bordeaux is that it represents more than wine, it’s also the bedrock of wine investing. For those out there that can appreciate the fact that wine isn’t only purchased with consumption as the end goal, they can appreciate why Bordeaux is highly priced, it doesn’t mean they have to like it; they just have to appreciate it (as is the case with yours truly). It’s like buying gold. Yes, it sucks that investors have driven it up to $1,700/oz; however your wife wants to wear it so you have pay it. Sure, you can buy silver; however that’s quite the same.

    Finally, if it wasn’t for the 1855 Classification and Bordeaux in general, wines in other regions wouldn’t be what they are today. Bordeaux is considered the “gold standard” and as such it’s highly emulated. Californian winemakers (and winemakers from wherever Cab/Merlot wines are made) can say to the contrary; however we all know that because of Bordeaux, they’ve learned, they’ve upped their game and they’ve improved. In the end, Bordeaux made wine better for us all, so to slight them is inappropriate and a bit ungrateful. It’s about appreciating; yea the prices are steep, but that’s the cost of being the best.

    Cheers,
    E

    • Matthew Billet

      Erol:

      I am not sure we are actually disagreeing except by way of semantics! I wouldn’t own Bordeaux if I didn’t like it. But, until this notion of the gold standard is toppled… and the world realizes that bordeaux is just another kind of wine… they will continue to sell their wines to China for ignorant amounts of money and price themselves into irrelevance!
      Certain wines from bordeaux don’t require 15-25 years of aging. But, you should explain your reference to infanticide, and that although these wines can obviously be drunk sooner… they will not be at their peak for drinking experience!
      As for knocking your socks off… it doesn’t need to be a bordeaux. I was talking to a European sommelier last night who often faults american cabs, who recounted a remarkable experience drinking the 2001 Chateau Montelena. The 82 Las Cases and 86 Latour are great experiences. Remember them, because they are rare finds and would cost thousands of dollars to enjoy again. But, it is beyond acceptable that some of these wines cost thousands of dollars while super tuscans, barolos and American cabs cost less. If none of these wines have knocked your socks off yet, than trust me… you have a lot to look forward to in your future!

  3. Michael Meagher, Advanced Sommelier

    An interesting dialogue going on here. So allow me to throw in my two cents as a sommelier…

    When it comes to the demystification of wines, the 1855 Classification of the Médoc is akin to the first steam engine or internal combustion engine. The world was still coming to terms with these new fangled glass bottles that were created over coal fires instead of wood fires, which allowed wine to be transported great distances with remarkable durability. Add to that the “technology” of stuffing cork bark into the neck of the bottle as a nearly airtight closure (sure beats pine resin and cloth), and all of a sudden wine became a commodity that can age and develop. The 1855 took into account these new developments in wine and attempted to codify those producers who were exceptional in a region that was largely considered (and still is today) to be the pinnacle of what fine wine is all about. Is it a perfect classification? Certainly not, since you can see that often a bottle of Lynch-Bages (5th, Pauillac) will command more than Rauzan-Gassies (2nd, Margaux). However, what the 1855 did was give everyone a starting point with which to approach these wines.

    Now the argument about price I find to be somewhat problematic. Certainly the First Growts have always outpaced their brethren, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. However, for the most part, the prices of the classified wines fell in line with their hierarchy (the 1855 was actually set up as a reflection of the cost of the wines in the open market, not necessarily a direct expression of quality). Unfortunately, like nearly every ultra premium bottle of wine being made these days, there was an incredible price spike once critics like Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator began their attempts to place every wine in the world onto a set scale of points. This skewed the public’s perspective of wine away from terroir, sense of place, history, etc. and focused its gaze directly upon the only thing a fledgling wine culture cares about: hedonism. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when you put it alongside the French wine culture, one that despises placing varietals on the label because of course Bordeaux is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. That’s how they’ve always made it and it can’t change. In America, we want immediate gratification, especially in a world where we are relatively naive, hence our blind chasing of points and irrational adoration for “cult” wines. From the country that brought you the cocktail, comes wines that often have as much finesse at the dinner table as drunk Uncle Charlie. Throw in an Asian population with more money than they know what to do with and all of a sudden, Bordeaux prices skyrocketed, as did many of the top US wines. (Screaming Eagle anyone? Harlan? Scarecrow? Try to get a bottle of those wines and tell me if you think they are “worthy” of their exorbitant prices. Supply and demand….)

    Winemakers are trying to come up with “one-size-fits-all” wines that most people will enjoy (see: Yellowtail), and are eschewing wines that are crafted beverages. Now certainly there are some exceptions at the higher level when it comes to point chasing, and Ridge is always top of the class for me in California. However, to place Ridge alongside Dominus I fear is exactly the kind of “mystification” of wine you seem to be trying to avoid. If the US had any kind of organization (don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of the AVA system), Ridge and Dominus would never be compared. It would be akin to comparing Petrus and Latour. Different climate, different soil, but we put them together because they are Prestige Cuvees based upon Cabernet Sauvignon from California. (If anything, I’d say that Ridge is more like their Bordeaux counterparts than any other prestige winery in the US) Is Ridge better than Latour? Is Latour better than Margaux? Is Margaux better than Dominus? I guarantee that everyone will have a different answer to those questions. But what would help people “demystify” wine here in the us is more transparent wine laws (when is 15% ABV on the label actually accurate? How on earth can we label something as Cabernet Sauvignon but permit 25% of Pinot Noir to be blended in?) And this is something that the French have done, even if we as Americans have a hard time understanding it.

    The Classification was never intended to be much of a guide for the everyday wine drinker. It was aimed at those with disposable income who wanted the best expressions of Bordeaux they could get. That is what the Classification succeeded at. If anything, it is our current wine culture, and that of the world, who have skewed this perspective. Instead of blaming the French for complicating things, perhaps we need to wonder if we have dumbed down the experience too much.

    Cheers!
    Michael

  4. Matthew,

    My disagreement comes by the attempt to bring down Bordeaux simply because the price is deemed asinine. Yes, it’s another kind of wine; however it’s still THE wine. Outside of a select handful of wines from other regions, there’s no greater concentration of great to legendary wines than in Bordeaux.

    What the 1855 Classification did was give a temporary framework to English and Dutch importers way back when; however it still serves as an accurate guide some 150 years later. Yes, it did implement a price structure based on something that can be seen as antiquated; however I feel that it has by in large been accurate. Sure, there’s the occasional Lynch-Bages and Pontet-Canet that produce wines that are far above their class; however it’s largely a beautifully elegant and beautifully simple system. The overall market will be the final regulator of price efficiency through demand.

    The transparency of this system has made things exceedingly simple for would be status seekers, so yes, the Chinese are currently being preyed upon. However the Chinese are not the only reason for a spike in pricing (see “Avail Quantity” below). Even so, Bordeaux is still a relative value vs. its American counterparts. As Mike mentioned, cult cabs with no pedigree to speak of demand far more absurd prices in the market. He mentioned Harlan, Scarecrow, Bryant and Screaming Eagle on the American 1st Tier side; however what about the Bonds, Opus One, Sine Qua Non, Maybach, etc on the 2nd Tier? They’re exceedingly overpriced and with no pedigree so to speak (outside of Opus, which only trades on pedigree at this point). They trade purely on rating and available quantity.

    There are four main components of wine pricing: ratings, pedigree, demand and available quantity. Now Bordeaux and the rest of the wine world have one of the three in common, available quantity.

    Pedigree – Outside of Opus and Penfolds Grange, there is not a ton of pedigree out there.

    Demand – >90% of investment worthy wine volume is caused by Bordeaux.

    Ratings – Love them or hate them, they are a solid consumers guide for those who want an idea about what’s in the bottle prior to purchasing. Nowhere else in the world is there as high a concentration of highly rated wines from the critics who matter.

    Available Quantity – With increased quality and winemaking techniques across the board, Bordeaux switched from living largely off their pedigree to implementing vast improvements across the board. Now, Bordeaux creates wines that are largely accessible early in life; however will greatly reward those who have the discipline to wait for additional bottle maturity. This leads to more people consuming them young (to Mike’s immediate gratification point, which in turn depletes the available supply quicker. Thus, fewer bottles of the greats and more demand lead to greater investment relevance.

    Personally, as much as I don’t like that I have to pay more, I understand why and it’s completely logical. Thus it’s acceptable. Sure, you can have great experiences elsewhere; however there’s something to be said about having a great Bordeaux experience.

    Give me Pauillac or give me death!

    Erol

  5. Oh!

    Infanticide = drinking a wine that has only just been released years before it’s expected to be drinking at its peak.

    This perception pisses me off as it tells people that they have to wait to have a great experience from a great wine. What age provides is a completely different experience. It all depends on what you enjoy. Plenty of people don’t understand or simply don’t enjoy matured wine.

    In fact, three of my greatest wine experiences were young, a ’05 Guigal Hermitage Ex Voto, ’03 Pontet-Canet and ’05 Grange. All would be considered infanticide by connoisseurs and to me they’d be dead wrong, because they were brilliant and provided amazing moments that will remain vivid forever.

    Now that’s demystifying wine :)

    E

  6. matthew Billet

    Michael… thank you for a refreshing and interesting voice in this discussion. Cabernet, bordeaux blends (french or otherwise)… they have their place at the top of the wine world in price and reputation… but it is so very true that even in the security of proclaiming that “the best wine in the world” is the “best wine in the world” we are walking a tight, narrow and somewhat unimaginative line.

    It isn’t a matter of blaming the French. Michael is so very right that this “Class of 1855″ is largely a historical concept. And, history… when a list of wineries crosses time with a pride of continuous quality… is relevant. But, it should be also mentioned that prior to technological advances of this last decade or two, many years of weak vintages were also recorded. Rarely were there decades where half of the vintages were highly rated. And, as a sommelier, Michael… it has often been said that a weak vintage yields wines easier to consume early!

    But, after roughly 30 years of consuming wine on a bit more of a serious (or perhaps whimsical) level, I can say that I have found my palate drift away and back to cabernet periodically. As good as Bordeaux and California cabernet/bordeaux blend based wines have and can be… Italian Cabs and Merlots are certainly extremely relevant in any discussion of greatness in this category.

    And, it it has been my experience that if you were to exclude all of the great cabernet/bordeaux experiences from my mind and memory… there would be the other 85-90 percent of incredible experiences had with wines of Champagne, burgundy (white and red), barolo, barbaresco, brunello (and 2000 some odd Italian wines), northern and southern rhone, Rioja, Ribera Del Duero, Priorat, Pinedes, as well as South Africa (such wonderful Chenin Blanc), New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. It is from tasting all wines, as many different wines of type and origin as possible, that we truly experience its diversity and greatness. And, honestly I would have to say that I have enjoyed vivid, brilliant, and memorable wine experiences/earth moving moments in every form/style/origin listed above (and that list is abbreviated).

    This said, Michael, it is inspiring to see younger people embrace wine with a hunger and thirst for knowledge and experience that escapes the confines of simple history and the drive to consume only what is supposed to be the very best, the most expensive. We have so much to learn from our history… but only as it inspires us to create something new under the sun. And, there is youth and brilliance out there… whether we find it in the new (garage) wines of bordeaux, the revolutionary refinement of methods in Chateauneuf and burgundy, the syrah clones of John Alban, the imagination of Raul Perez, the coy insanity of Charles Smith, or the educated hand of Morgan Twain Peterson.

  7. Matthew,

    The fact remains, Bordeaux is the pinnacle. Whether you agree or not is up to you; however the global wine world sees it this way and it’s for a reason. Yes, there are amazing wines that aren’t Cab/Merlot based and aren’t from Bordeaux. At no point was this ever implied; however it’s appropriate to point to the beauty and continued relevance of the 1855 Classification.

    There’s also nothing unimaginative about it either, for shit’s sake it’s the most aspirational classification out there! 5th Growths try desperately to attain First Growth/Super-Second status and in doing so reinvent, become more attuned with terrior and improve their processes, in turn they push the 1st and 2nds to be even better! California, Washington, Italy, Chile, Australia, etc have all stepped up their game to produce better wines because of the quality derived from Bordeaux and what it represents. My goodness it’s even called the “Bordeaux Effect” when wines from other regions benefit from what’s happening in Bordeaux.

    Sure, the ‘60s and ‘70s were largely crap in terms of age worthy wines; however every giant rests on its laurels occasionally, shit look at the United States. However the great thing about Bordeaux is that they, along with Burgundy, have realized this and stepped it up big time, adapting to certain elements of modernization. This is reflected in the amazing wines produced in ‘80s, 90s and ‘00s.

    As for certain types of forward thinkers, sure there are some great young winemakers out there, but what’s wrong with being traditional? There are amazingly inspiring wines being produced in by reinvigorated young winemakers that focus on terrior and classic expression rather than over-extraction and manipulation, Donelan’s Tyler Thomas being one. Aubin and your buddy’s son are also worth mentioning along with Justin Smith and countless others. They make beautiful wines that harness the character of the varietals.

    Once you threw Charles Smith in there you lost me. I’ve never experienced such odd, unbalanced and near undrinkable wines than his. Yes, he has a couple nice labels, but to make a wine without an identity just isn’t my style, nor is it the style of anyone whom I’ve shared his wines with. Why be different just to be different, be different with a purpose to be better.

    In the end, I think my point is still made. “the overall brilliance of this framework is its continued relevance and how it’s taken something that could’ve been quite confusing and made it brilliantly simple. In this simplicity, a legend was solidified.”

    E

  8. Mike Rasmussen

    Guys,

    The article offers a brief and easy to understand history of the 1855 Classification that is still in place today. It’s accurate and isn’t implying anything more other than the brilliance of the classification is its simplicity. What’s to argue there?!

    On the flipside, the comments on this article are intense! I’m not completely seeing where Matt’s original point was going. Grossly overvalued? If that’s the case then the wine market as a whole is overvalued. If you look at the California equivalent to many 3rd-5th Growths, they fetch $100-150 or more and as you said in one of the comments, without the pedigree. So California is overvalued, yes. Considering the investment component of Bordeaux (and my favorite Burgundy) I’d say that they are fairly valued.

    Personally, I am a Burgundy nutcase; however your article is accurate. I have been into wine for about 20 years and collected Burgundy for roughly 10 years and they are so dynamic from year to year that it scares me to death that I need to buy horribly expensive table wine, just to keep my allotment available for the good and great vintages (which make it all worth it!). With Bordeaux you are far more likely to find approachable wines of high quality and interesting character on a more consistent basis than any other region. Even in years that are considered “off” vintages for Bordeaux, they are typically better than most other region’s good vintages. That’s one of the reasons that they are the standard bearer.

    I love the dialogue going on here, very well structured and well supported. The 1855 Classification is impressive in its enduring character. History and wine go hand in hand, to deny or refute that is to not understand part of what makes wine great..

    Razz

  9. Classified Bordeaux at this point has become an investment index of sorts. Demand is completely driven by prestige, not quality. What excites me most about the region are its satellite regions – Fronsac, Haut-Medoc, etc. The wines are accessible in their youth and have been less prone to Parkerization (it exists – just ask Michel Rolland!). Sadly, these smaller, family-run estates have been the victims of a classification more than 150 years old. A younger American generation has lost its interest in the entire category, seeking refuge in the classics of Burgundy and the emerging lands of Chile & Argentina… but I digress.

    Are the very best wines of Bordeaux still indicated by hierarchy built in 1855? Largely yes, outside of a few that deserve a ranking. But at the same token, is their “drinking worth” accurately reflected by the price? Not in the slightest bit.

  10. Jon,

    Thanks for your comments bud! Mind if I reply?!

    To say that Bordeaux has been prone to Parkerization is true; however this is not a negative. The other point, that younger wine drinkers are missing out on the satellites is not necessary a direct effect of classified Bordeaux ruining it for them.

    People look at Robert Parker, and to lesser extent Jim Suckling’s, ratings on Bordeaux as negatives. What has happened since these two have started rating these Bordeaux in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is that Bordeaux as a whole was in a funk. They were coming off of two decades of living off of their pedigree (‘60s and ‘70s). Parker and Suckling, through Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator respectively, began to make consumers aware through their writing and ratings of the quality of the wines produced. This, along with dwindling sales and the emergence of California and other regions woke them up. They looked to new technology and winemaking principles. Guys like Rolland and others were key players in this development. With this focus on qualitative improvement to remain relevant happening at the same time that Bob Parker was growing his sphere of influence, it became easy to label all of this as Parkerization; however I fail to see it that way. Sure there are wineries and winemakers that manipulate their wines to favor his preferences; however if you look at classified Bordeaux and Rhone as a whole, those regions make largely terrior driven, expressive and complex wines which are true to the French tradition.

    As for the satellites suffering due to the focus on classifieds, people of all ages, not only this new generation of wine drinkers, look to classified Bordeaux for quality. However the satellites benefit indirectly by the perception of quality that Bordeaux afford the all of the region, including Fronsac and Haut-Medoc. In fact, when my friends, my cousin, who is a devout Super-Second nut, and myself look for value and everyday drinkers, I look to Haut-Medoc and unclassified Medoc all the time. They actually benefit greatly due to the recognized quality of the overall area and the ease of understanding of this region.

    Lastly, classified Bordeaux is hardly an investment index. Yes, the top 10 or so Left Bank and top 5 Right Banks are the playground of the wealthy and drive prices up; however the rest of the region is very fairly priced especially when compared to the other mature regions of California and Italy. The quantity of producers creating super high quality wines in that $75-200 range in Bordeaux is massive and justly deserves the reputation they have. Again, yes there are regions that produce wonderful, fruit forward and expressive wines when they are young, that many people love, including myself. When it comes to Bordeaux, you are paying what’s perceived to be a premium because these wines can age amazingly long periods of time, even the lower growths. With California, Italy, et al, you’re paying a premium for ratings. Many of these wines just don’t have the legs to last or the demand in back vintages.

    Ok…time to head to work. Have a great one bud. Thanks for hearing me out!

    E

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