Thursday, August 17, 2017

Classified Growths, 2nd Wine and 2nd Label


Classified Growths, 2nd Wine, and 2nd Label


Sometimes people who are not in the know of French wines, and more especially Bordeaux and its classification, seems to mistake 2nd growth with the 2nd wine or 2nd label, confuse them or misunderstand the concept of them. 

That was the case for one of my colleagues at work who enjoys wine from time to time but seems to have little knowledge when it comes to history and/or classification of Bordeaux wines. His question, that I answered as simply as I could, inspired me to write this post for whoever will be interested to know about the differences.

Let's try to define them to have a clearer idea of what they are...

Classified Growths


The term "Classified Growths" (or "Crus Classés" in French), usually refers to Bordeaux Wines and basically represents the listed Chateaux included in the original "1855 Bordeaux Classification", as well as the Chateaux resulting from property splits due to new ownership or family matters.

Although the list only stated them as "Crus" (Premiers Crus, Deuxième Crus, etc...), the word "Grand" ("Great") was added in their title to become "Grand Cru" (see labels below for examples)

For the Reds:
  • 56 Châteaux from the "Haut-Médoc"
    • 4     Premiers Grands Crus Classés (1st Growths)
    • 12   Seconds Grands Crus Classés (2nd Growths) (including Mouton *)
    • 14   Troisièmes Grands Crus Classés (3rd Growths)
    • 10   Quatrièmes Grands Crus Classés (4th Growths)
    • 17   Cinquièmes Grands Crus Classés (5th Growths) (+ Cantemerle added later **)
  • 1 Château from the "Graves" 
    • 1     Premier Grand Cru Classé (Haut Brion)
For the Whites (Sweet):
  • 21 Châteaux from the "Sauternes-Barsac" region
    • 1    Premier Cru Supérieur
    • 9    Premiers Crus
    • 11  Second Crus
FYI: Despite Château Lafite-Rothschild, 3 of the original 4 "First Classified Growths" bear the name of "Premier Grand Cru Classé" on their label. Some of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th growths also bear "Grand Cru Classé en 1855" on their label.


Châteaux Margaux - Latour - Haut Brion Collage - ©LeDomduVin


NB: 2 more Classifications were established later on for the "Graves" and "Saint-Emilion" regions, with Châteaux also bearing on their labels the name of "Classified Growth" or "Great Classified Growth" ("Cru Classé" or "Grand Cru Classé" in French) 
  • Graves - Pessac-Léognan: First Classification established in 1953 but officialized in 1959 (read the press release details about this classification here)
  • Saint-Emilion: First Classification in 1955, updated in 1969, then 1986, 1996 and 2006 declared invalid (back to the classification of 1996 between 2006 and 2009), the latest Classification dates from 2012. (Read the press release details of this latest classification here)
You can also check a full listing of the wines for these 3 classifications here and you will surely notice the usual recurring mistakes made in all 1855 Bordeaux Classification I could find on the internet, which are:

(*)  Château Mouton-Rothschild was a 2nd Growth in 1855 and was only elevated to the rank of 1st Growth in 1973, yet most listing I found include it in the 1st Growth of 1855, which is wrong and makes me wonder why people do not check prior publishing such incorrect lists on the internet.

(**) Château Cantemerle was apparently not listed on the 1855 list. It appears that it was added to the Classification List the year after in 1856. Was it forgotten or omitted from the original list then added later? Who knows really? What we know is that some writings on the subject are quite controversial and/or contradictory on the fact that whether Cantemerle was part of the original 1855 Classification list or not.

However, if one looks at the original classification list (see picture below at the end of the list of the  "Cinquièmes Crus"), it is clear that Cantemerle was added after completion of the list. The font, size and handwriting style are quite different from the ones of the original list. Therefore, for sure it was added after. Whether it was in 1855 or 1856 will be difficult to know at this point. Another controversial fact about Cantemerle from these writings is that, despite proofs of its existence dating back to the 12th Century, it seems that Chateau Cantemerle has never appeared on Bordeaux Wine Region maps prior 1856.... go figure.... maybe the best would be to ask the Chateau directly....

I wrote a little about the 1855 Bordeaux Classification further below in this post just to complement a bit this Classified Growths Chapter.



2nd Wine (or 3rd wine)


A 2nd wine is a wine also produced at the Chateau and from the same appellation (AOC), but usually either

  1. From younger vineyards that are not used for the Grand Vin
  2. Or from vineyards that do not produce grapes of high quality enough to be included in the production of the "Grand Vin" due to various factors (Terroir: soils, subsoils, inclination, exposition, orientation, climate, environment, etc...). 
The best parcels are usually reserved to produce the "Grand Vin", lesser or younger parcels to make the 2nd or even 3rd wine.

For example, Chateau Latour produces 3 wines at the Chateau and all from the Pauillac Appellation Contrôlée

  1. Château Latour - First Wine or "Grand Vin" in French
  2. Les Forts de Latour - 2nd Wine
  3. Pauillac (or Le Pauillac de Château Latour) - 3rd Wine

Châteaux Latour - Les Forts de LaTour - Pauillac Collage - ©LeDomduVin



2nd Label (or 3rd Label)


Often confused with or referred to as a 2nd wine, a 2nd label is, in my opinion, and definition, a totally different wine (than a 2nd wine) which is also produced at the Chateau but either

  1. From a specific vineyard, parcel or cru of the same appellation (AOC)  
  2. From vineyards outside the appellation of the "Grand Vin" within a more generic appellation
  3. From declassified wines not good enough to pass the quality for the upper rank
  4. From grapes not authorized in the specific appellation of the Grand Vin but that can still be used for more generic appellation wines 


For example, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild produces 3 wines at the Chateau, 2 under the Pauillac Appellation and 1 under the Bordeaux Appellation, which, in my opinion, can be considered as a second label


  1. Château Mouton-Rothschild - Pauillac - First Wine or "Grand Vin" in French
  2. Le Petit Mouton - Pauillac - 2nd Wine
  3. Mouton Cadet - Bordeaux - 2nd Label or 3rd Label (I let you decide depending on how you see it) produced from grapes sourced in Pauillac and neighboring appellations 


Châteaux Mouton-Rothschild - Le Petit Mouton - Mouton Cadet Collage - ©LeDomduVin


Et Voilà.... That is the most simple way I can explain the differences between a 2nd growth and a 2nd wine or 2nd label. I hope it helped you to clarify and answer your questions. Leave me a comment in the comments box at the end of this post if you have any on the subject and let's discuss it :-) 


And now, to complement a little bit the Classified Growths Chapter above, let's talk about the 1855 Bordeaux Classification in Photos.. a visual often speak louder than words and too many long articles have already been written on the subject. 


1855 Bordeaux Classification



1855 Bordeaux Classification 
(Courtesy of Cadman Fine Wines)

The 1855 Bordeaux Classification

Back in 1855, Emperor Napoleon III requested from the wine Brokers, Negociants and/or Merchants to create a Classification system of the best Bordeaux wines that were to be on display for visitors at the "Exposition Universelle de Paris".

They first established a list of the best Chateaux in Bordeaux based on their reputation and notoriety, then ranked them by adding the Chateau's trading prices, which, at the time, was a reflection of their quality (I said "at the time" because, nowadays, if the Classification had to be redone, people will realize that high price is not always reflecting the quality of the wine and the ranking of these same wines will definitely not be the same.... but that will be the subject of another post). 

Bordeaux Map 1952 - Dpt. de la Gironde
(Courtesy of www.mapmania.org)

At the time, only the wines from the left Bank (left of the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary) were ranked and divided into 2 main categories:
  1. The Reds of the Gironde (Reds of the Haut-Medoc region mostly + Haut Brion from the Graves region)
  2. The Whites of the Gironde (Whites of the Sauternes-Barsac region)
Bordeaux Left Bank Map
(Courtesy of www.wino4life.com)


The wines were ranked and sorted by order of importance, notoriety, and price.

1855 Bordeaux Classification
Original handwritten letter preceding the list of classified growths 
(courtesy of here)


Most Reds came from the Médoc region except for Château Haut-Brion from Graves.
The list was divided into 5 categories: from First to Fifth growths (or "Crus" in French).


1855 Bordeaux Classification red wines 1st and 2nd Growths
(Courtesy of www.bordeauxwineblog.com)

1855 Bordeaux Classification red wines 3rd and 4th Growths 
(Courtesy of https://i.servimg.com)

1855 Bordeaux Classification red wines 5th Growths 
(Courtesy of https://journalepicurien.com)

1855 Bordeaux Classification red wines 5th Growths
(courtesy of click here)

As for the white wines, the classification concerned only the sweet wine of Sauternes and Barsac, which were ranked in 3 categories: Superior First Growth, First Growths, and Second Growths.

Classification of French wineries, estates, and vineyards does not solely stop at Bordeaux, other French Regions like Burgundy and Alsace also possesses their own "Grand Crus" and "Premiers Crus".



Cheers!

And drink good wines, life is too short to drink bad wines!
And do me a favor, stop thinking that good wines are always expensive.
There plenty of great wines at very affordable prices out there, just look for them, they exist...!?!

LeDomduVin a.k.a Dominique Noël



  

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