1855

THE OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATION

Empereur Napoléon III paid an important service to the great red wines of the Médoc by organising in Paris, in 1855, the Second Universal Exhibition. It was an occasion for him to glorify French products, among which were the prestigious Médoc wines.
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Empereur Napoléon III paid an important service to the great red wines of the Médoc by organising in Paris, in 1855, the Second Universal Exhibition. It was an occasion for him to glorify French products, among which were the prestigious Médoc wines.

He wanted the wines to be presented in the form of a classification. A blind tasting was organised in Paris which led to this official classification of 1855. It divided about sixty Médoc growths, and a property in the Graves, into five quality levels.

Four growths were classified “Premier Grand Cru Classé”; only Margaux was marked twenty out of twenty. This classification, which maintains its validity today, confirmed the qualitative hierarchy illustrated by the great price differences that had been practiced on the world market for a long time. In the XVIII century, the “first growths” were already being sold at twice the price of the “second growths”. Moreover, the 1855 classification succeeded over other more informal classification attempts like that of Thomas Jefferson in the XVIII century. Under the Second Empire, there’s little to say other than Bordeaux experienced a truly golden age, thanks to the building of a railway to Paris, but also thanks to the rapid expansion of commerce, facilitated by the agreements of free exchange inspired by the liberal ideas of the Emperor. It’s certain that Napoléon III had a lot to do with the upturn of Bordeaux viticulture.