Ah, Bordeaux. It’s wonderful bars, mirrored water, football team, sitting quite literally Entre-deux-Mers (Between two seas) and it’s beautiful docks… but especially it’s world famous vineyards! How well do you really know this iconic region? Come with us and find out a little more about the home of ‘Claret’!
The 1855 Bordeaux classification: an archaic fancy or a real indicator of quality?
In 1855, Napoleon III demanded a classification of Bordelaise wines according to the reputation of their production, to present at the Universal Exhibition of Paris. However, in 1855 only the wines of the Medoc had any sort of international reputation which goes some way to explain the focus on only these estates, ignoring Saint Emilion and Pomerol, amongst others.
The red wines are central to the ranking system; 60 Médoc wines were rated in 5 categories, ranging from 1st to 5th growth wines, with 1st being the highest. The only exception to this was Chateau Haut-Brion of Pessac-Leognan, which was already a Grand Cru Classé and so was included in the ranking. As for white wines, only the sweet nectar of Sauternes was included, with Chateau d’Yquem standing alone at the top. It took another 100 years for Graves and Saint Emilion to be included in a structured appellation system, and poor Pomerol still hasn’t been classified! Somewhat ironically, the most expensive wine of Bordeaux is to be found here regardless; the famous Pétrus.
The price of great wines: How and Why
Tasting the great wines of Bordeaux is a dream for many wine lovers, yet the sky-high prices of some of these wines puts many of them out of reach. Why are they so expensive?
The cost of producing a bottle of wine from a classified estate costs around €20, including the equipment, staff costs, marketing and transportation. Add increasingly expensive land cost and taxes to this, and it’s easy to see how many wines can break past €40 a bottle! Intermediaries, merchants, brokers and restaurant owners then add their own margin and before you know it, that €20 bottle of wine has become very expensive indeed.
As these wines have become famous throughout the world, speculation on the very best and rarest of bottles has seen these prices stretch beyond the imagination of the winemaker, increasingly used as investment vehicles. However, it’s important to remember that many excellent wines are still well priced and some of the very best can be had for as little as €30 a bottle. Tempted?
Anecdote of the day
During a trip to Bordeaux, we served a particularly rare and famous bottle to a distinguished French General; a 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion, no less. However, more accustomed to drinking simple wines, he instinctively mixed his wine with water!