While some consumers today feel the 1855 Classification of the Medoc is anachronistic, the truth is, for the most part, the original classification still has a lot of merit, event though it is more than 150 years old! It’s even more startling to learn that to invent the original classification, it took the negociants less than 2 weeks to create it!
The links on the left side of the page bring you detailed profiles of all Second Growth Bordeaux wine producers. The pages offer numerous, wine tasting notes, images, detailed histories, information on the wine making techniques, soil, terroir and links to buy the wine.
The 1855 Bordeaux classification came up with a ranking of the best Bordeaux wines in five, unique classes for the red wines. The wines included were all from Medoc, except for the already legendary Château Haut-Brion, which was from Graves and not from the Left Bank, like all the other classified growths. Chateau Haut Brion had to be included in the original classification. In 1855, Haut Brion was already one of the world’s most famous wines. More importantly, the wine sold for as much, if not more money than the other First Growth wines of the Medoc!
In the Classification, the rankings were determined by in large part, by their selling price over an extended period of time. In this case, when the official rankings for the 1855 classification were produced, the average selling price covering the period of 1815 to 1855 was considered. In all, a total of 61 Bordeaux chateaux are included in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification for chateaux making red Bordeaux wine.
To give you an idea of the variances in price between the First Growths and Second Growth Bordeaux at the time, First Growth Bordeaux wine was trading for more than 3,000 French Francs per barrel. Second Growth Bordeaux wine was selling for an average of 2,500 and 2700 French Francs per barrel. If only the spread was that close today!
To help you understand the meaning of the term “Second Growth Bordeaux,” you can look at it like this as a general idea. The 1855 Classification placed the top wines of Bordeaux in five different ranking categories. The ranking categories were called Growths. A wine with the ranking of First Growth was considered the best wine in Bordeaux. The top wine of Bordeaux, a First Growth was awarded an A+, a Second Growth is an A-, a Third Growth is a B+, a Fourth Growth is a B and a Fifth Growth is a C+. With the exception of an A+ for the First Growths, the grades may or may not be applicable. But they provide you with a good idea on what the term Second Growth means in relationship to the other Classified Growths in Bordeaux.
Out of the 61 Classified growths, 15 were listed as Second Growths. Few changes have taken place since the classification was initially created. The most famous change occurred when Chateau Mouton Rothschild was elevated to First Growth status, which left 14 chateaux listed as Second Growth Bordeaux wines. Over the years, a new term developed, Super Seconds. The consumer marketplace eventually came to create its own classification of Second Growth Bordeaux. These wines sell for a price today that is often between the First Growths and the other Second Growths.
If changes were made to the 1855 Classified Second Growth wines, we think would see a lot of movement, both, with estates that could deserve First Growth status, and down, as there are 4 notable chateau that are not producing wine worthy of their Second Growth status and they should be demoted. You might also see a few wines jump right into the Second Growth category from Pessac Leognan. There could be a lot of turmoil in the Second Growth classification if any serious re-rankings were allowed to take place. Who knows, perhaps an official new ranking could be added, which would include the wines that truly deserve their unofficial, Super Second classification that the market has awarded to a handful of wines!
Red Bordeaux wine was not all that classified in 1855. The sweet white wine of Sauternes and Barsac, were also included in the original 1855 Classification, but with only two classes, First Growth and Second Growth. For a look at the 1855 classification of Sauternes wines” List of 1855 Sauternes- Barsac Classifications