Bordeaux

Understanding something about Bordeaux classification systems is important to buying fine Bordeaux wine.  Here you will discover how each section within Bordeaux rates its wines.

If you are interested in the wine classification system of a particular appellation, click on its name here and you will go directly to that section of this page.

Medoc

Blaye & Bourg

Graves

Fronsac & Canon Fronsac

Pomerol &
Lalande Pomerol

Entre Deux Mers, Cotes de Bordeaux
& Sainte Foy Bordeaux

Saint Emilion

Bordeaux

AOC Wines
All French wine is regulated under certain rules to maintain quality control.  The Bordeaux wine regions outlined here all fall under the AOC laws, or Appellation d’Origine Côntrollée.

Only a fraction of all French wine fall in this category.  Many of the Bordeaux wine regions only have the AOC laws as the guidelines for making wine.

There are four different types of Bordeaux red wines under AOC rules:

Bordeaux Red Wine
A typical red wine from Bordeaux.
Bordeaux Superieur
These wines are made from older vines and must be aged for 12 months before release to the market.

Bordeaux Clairet
A lighter red wine but not quite a rose. The word “Claret” comes from this wine.
Bordeaux Rosé
A typical rosé wine.

The AOC regulates:

Geographic origin
Types of grapes grown
Minimum alcohol content
How much wine can be made per acre
How many vines can be planted per acre
How much land is designated for each type of wine
How many buds can grow per acre

Geographic Origin
The AOC regulates where a wine can say it comes from.  This is to help you determine the quality of the wine.
Types of Grapes Grown
Bordeaux red wine can be made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere.  The main types of grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are mixed with small percentages of the other grapes for flavoring.

Depending on whether the wine is from the Right or the Left Bank, it will either have more Merlot or more Cabernet Sauvignon in it, respectively.
Minimum Alcohol Content
The minimum alcohol content of Bordeaux wines are:

Bordeaux Red Wine
10%
Bordeaux Superieur
10.5%

Bordeaux Clairet
10%
Bordeaux Rosé
10.5%

How Much Wine Can Be Produced Per Acre

Bordeaux Red
66 Million gallons

(2.5 Million hectoliters)
Bordeaux Superieur
14 Million gallons

(530,000 hectoliters)

Bordeaux Clairet
1.4 Million gallons

(52,000 hectoliters)
Bordeaux Rosé
4.7 Million gallons

(180,000 hectoliters)

How Many Vines Can Be Planted Per Acre
About 5,000 vines per acre (2,000 per hectare).
Land Designated For Each AOC Wine

Bordeaux Red
108,726 acres (44,000 hectares)
Bordeaux Superieur
24,710 acres (10,000 hectares)

Bordeaux Clairet
2,285 acres (925 hectares)
Bordeaux Rosé
8,154 acres (3,300 hectares)

How Many Buds Can Grow Per Acre
150,000 per acre (60,000 per hectare)

Medoc Ranking System
Medoc wine is classified under a system established over 150 years ago.  All the sub-appellations (Haut-Medoc, Pauillac, St. Julien, St. Estephe, Listrac, Moulis and Margaux) all fall under this system.

The Medoc system is not a system of quality control, like the AOC system.  It is a guide for you to know which are the best Medoc wines.

Back in 1855, when this Bordeaux classification system was invented, wines were ranked according to price.  It was broken down into five sections, or “growths.”

There are 62 Chateaux in the 1855 classification.  You will know you are looking at one of these wines if you see “Grand Cru Classe” on the label.  Here is the list:
First Growths (Premier Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Lafite-Rothschild

Chateau Latour

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Haut-Brion

Chateau Mouton-Rothschild

AOC
Pauillac

Pauillac

Margaux

Pessac-Leognan (Graves)

Pauillac

Second Growths (Deuxieme Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Rausan Segla

Chateau Rausan Gassies

Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases

Chateau Leoville-Poyferre

Chateau Leoville-Barton

Chateau Durfort-Vivens

Chateau Lascombes

Chateau Gruaud-Larose

Chateau Brane-Cantenac

Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron

C. Pichon-Longueville-Lalande

Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou

Chateau Cos d’Estournel

Chateau Montrose

AOC
Margaux

Margaux

St. Julien

St. Julien

St. Julien

Margaux

Margaux

St. Julien

Margaux

Pauillac

Pauillac

St. Julien

St. Estephe

St. Estephe

Third Growths (Troisiemes Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Giscours

Chateau Kirwan

Chateau d’Issan

Chateau Lagrange

Chateau Langoa-Barton

Chateau Malescot-St-Exupery

Chateau Cantenac-Brown

Chateau Palmer

Chateau La Lagune

Chateau Desmirail

Chateau Calon-Segur

Chateau Ferriere

Chateau d’Alesme

Chateau Boyd-Cantenac

AOC
Margaux

Margaux

Margaux

St. Julien

St. Julien

Margaux

Margaux

Margaux

Haut-Medoc

Margaux

St. Estephe

Margaux

Margaux

Margaux

Fourth Growths (Quatriemes Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau St. Pierre

Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Chateau Talbot

Chateau Duhart-Milon-Rothschild

Chateau Pouget

Chateau La Tour-Carnet

Chateau Lafon-Rochet

Chateau Beuchevelle

Chateau Prieure-Lichine

Chateau Marquis de Terme

AOC
St. Julien

St. Julien

St. Julien

Pauillac

Margaux

Haut-Medoc

St. Estephe

St. Julien

Margaux

Margaux

Fifth Growths (Cinquiemes Crus)

Vineyard
Chateau Pontet-Canet

Chateau Batailley

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste

Chateau Grang-Puy-Ducasse

Chateau Haut-Batailley

Chateau Lynch-Bages

Chateau Lynch-Moussas

Chateau Dauzac

Chateau d’Armailhac

Chateau du Tertre

Chateau Haut-Bages-Liberal

Chateau Pedesclaux

Chateau Belgrave

Chateau Camensac

Chateau Cos Labory

Chateau Clerc-Milon-Rothschild

Chateau Croizet Bages

Chateau Cantemerle

AOC
Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Pauillac

Haut-Medoc

Pauillac

Margaux

Pauillac

Pauillac

Haut-Medoc

Haut-Medoc

St. Estephe

Pauillac

Pauillac

Haut-Medoc

Medoc Cru Bourgeois Wines
As new wineries were formed over the years, a new Bordeaux classification system was needed to help wine drinkers enjoy all the delicious French wines.  In 1920, the Cru Bourgeois system was developed.  It has since been revised several times, adding or removing wineries.

Between 2003 and 2010, Medoc Cru Bourgeois wine was divided into three levels:  Cru exceptionnels, Crus Superieurs and Crus Bourgeois.  Due to some serious issues with this system, it was annulled and restructured in 2010.

Since 2010, the system is revised annually and is awarded to specific wines, rather than wineries.  The classification is based on method of production as well as the quality of the wine.  Any Medoc winery may apply for the classification, which is released two year after the vintage year.  For example, a 2012 wine will receive its classification in 2014.

Graves Classification
The most famous of all the Graves chateaux is Chateau Haut-Brion.  You may recognize it from the Medoc Classification of 1855 list.

Other Graves wines are classified as Grand Cru Classes in Medoc as well.  Take a look at:

Chateau Bouscaut
Chateau Haut-Bailly
Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion

Why are Graves wines included in the Medoc classification?

The Medoc classification was originally made for Medoc and Graves.  Graves eventually formed its own Bordeaux classification system in 1959.  These Chateaux are all located in Pessac-Leognan.

St. Emilion Classification
Saint Emilion’s system was set up in a similar fashion to the Medoc.  This Bordeaux classification system was founded in 1955, with a list of Premier Gran Crus (A & B) and Grand Cru Classes.

The classification was updated every ten years until 2006, when a controversy erupted and changed the way this Bordeaux classification is conducted.

Before 2006, Saint Emilion had a fixed number of Chateaux to classify.  As of 2013, there are still controversies surrounding this Bordeaux classification system.

Famous Saint Emilion chateaux in each category of this Bordeaux classification system:

Premier Grand Crus Classes A

Chateau Ausone
Chateau Cheval Blanc

Premier Grand Crus Classes B

Chateau Beausejour
Chateau Canon
Chateau Figeac

Grand Crus Classes

Chateau Monbousquet
Chateau La Tour Figeac

Pomerol & Lalande Pomerol
This tiny Bordeaux wine region has no Bordeaux classification system.  It has only recently (in the last 50 years) become a famous wine region.

The most famous of all the Pomerol wineries are Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin, which are some of the most expensive wines in the world.

Blaye & Bourg
Blaye and Bourg have no ranking system for their wines other than the AOC system.

Fronsac & Canon Fronsac
Fronsac & Canon Fronsac use the AOC regulations and have no ranking system.

Entre Deux Mers, Cotes de Bordeaux & Sainte Foy Bordeaux
Entre Deux Mers is the largest of all the Bordeaux wine regions and makes most of the Bordeaux AOC wine.  They come mostly from Sainte Foy Bordeaux and Cotes de Bordeaux.

Bordeaux AOC
Bordeaux AOC is where the supermarket brands of French wine come from. Mouton Cadet is a famous brand in this category, made by the Rothschild family.