Bordeaux, one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world, is also one of the most complex, particularly when it comes to its classification systems. Each classification reflects the quality, reputation, and price of the wines. For those new to the world of Bordeaux, understanding these classifications can seem a bit daunting. That’s why we’ve created a simplified guide in a bullet-point format to help you get a handle on it.

1855 Classification

  • Established for the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1855 at the request of Napoleon III.
  • Classifies wines from the Médoc, Sauternes, and Barsac regions.
  • The Médoc classification includes five tiers (First through Fifth Growths or ‘Crus’), with the First Growth wines considered the best.
  • Notable First Growths: Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild.
  • Sauternes and Barsac are classified differently, with three tiers and a special category for Château d’Yquem due to its extraordinary reputation.

Graves Classification

  • Implemented in 1953, and only includes wines from the Graves region.
  • Notable classified estates: Château Haut-Brion, Château La Mission Haut-Brion, Château Pape Clément.

Saint-Émilion Classification

  • Started in 1955, and is unique for being updated roughly every 10 years.
  • Includes two classes: Premier Grand Cru Classé (further divided into ‘A’ and ‘B’) and Grand Cru Classé.
  • Premier Grand Cru Classé ‘A’ represents the top tier.

Cru Bourgeois

  • Represents quality estates in the Médoc that weren’t included in the 1855 Classification.
  • Updated annually based on quality criteria.
  • Includes three levels: Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel.

Cru Artisan

  • A lesser-known classification, it recognizes small-scale, high-quality wine producers throughout the Médoc.
  • The classification was officially recognized in 2006, following a tradition that dates back to the 19th century.

With a deeper understanding of Bordeaux classifications, you’re now better equipped to navigate the rich and diverse selection of wines from this region. Explore the world of Bordeaux with 305 Wines here. From the remarkable First Growths to the exceptional offerings of Cru Bourgeois and beyond, Bordeaux’s complexities are part of what make it so extraordinary and rewarding.

Stay tuned for our next post, where we’ll delve deeper into the world of wine. Until then, happy tasting!


Alessandra Esteves, DipWSET, MW candidate, official Bordeaux Tutor