Classed growth

Definition - What does Classed growth mean?

Classed Growth is a classification system in Bordeaux used to designate wines of great quality and/or popularity. There are five different classifications systems of this type in Bordeaux: 1855 Classification, Graves Classification, Saint Émilion Classification, Cru Bourgeois and Médoc Crus Artisans. Each system encompasses a different region of Bordeaux or a different type of wine.

WineFrog explains Classed growth

Classed Growth classifications provided consumers with a clear indication of the quality of wine in the bottle. The classification of an estate is almost always indicated on the wine label, and will appear with the word “Cru” somewhere.

Bordeaux’s growth classification started informally in the 15th and 16th centuries. The British consumers of Bordeaux wines became so well versed in the wine regions of Bordeaux, that they were able to pinpoint the wine they wanted based on the sub-region and estate. By the 1700s, word of mouth about specific estates had increased popularity and price for four specific producers. They took advantage of this by branding their product with their estate names and increasing the quality of their wines. Price continued to increase until the “first growth” term was born.

The first four Bordeaux producers to be called “first growth” were Haut-Brion, Margaux, Latour and Lafite. Seeing the success of these estates, other producers emulated them without quite reaching the same prominence. In the mid-1700s, these estates were dubbed “second growth”. Estates continued striving for first or second growth status, creating additional tiers, until the 1850s when five tiers stabilized: first, second, third, fourth and fifth growth.

These five tiers were monitored and established by brokers, merchants and traders whose price records went back decades. Thus, in 1855 when France’s Chamber of Commerce requested a detailed list of all Bordeaux producers, divided into the five classes, the Bordeaux wine industry was able to provide one – the 1855 Classification. This was the first “growth class” system in Bordeaux. Since then, four more official systems have been created.

1855 Classification

  • Created based on price point, over the course of several decades
  • Includes five tiers: Premiers Crus, Deuxièmes Crus, Troisièmes Crus, Quatrièmes Crus, Ciquièmes Crus
  • Has only changed twice
  • Covers Médoc and Sauternes

Graves Classification

  • Created in 1953
  • No tiers; all estates labeled “Cru Classé de Graves”
  • Includes 16 estates
  • List has only changed once
  • Covers Graves

Saint-Émilion Classification

  • Created in 1954
  • Includes two tiers: Premier Grand Cru (A and B) and Grand Cru Classé
  • Updated every 10 years
  • Covers Saint-Émilion
  • Classification given based on quality, not price point or popularity

Cru Bourgeois Alliance

  • Created in 2009
  • No tiers; all estates labeled “Cru Bourgeois”
  • Includes 250 estates
  • Updated every 2 years
  • Classification given based on quality, not price point or popularity

Crus Artisans du Médoc

  • Created in 1994
  • No tiers; all estates labeled “Cru Artisan”
  • Includes 44 estates
  • Updated every 10 years
  • Covers Médoc
  • Classification given to family run businesses that cultivate their own grapes and make, market and sell their wines.
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