A French Revolution?


A recent study (picked up by the ever-watchful Jancis Robinson on her excellent website) by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University proposes a revolution to the 1855 Classification.

While the 2007 vintage in Bordeaux was not an En Primeur campaign that grabbed headlines, there is no doubt that Claret remains at the top of the class for Fine Wine. Each year the key critics’ scores are awaited with bated breath, as are the release prices from the commercially-minded Bordelais. Grading the top properties of the Left Bank, the 1855 classification is seemingly set in stone (apart from Mouton Rothschild’s audacious category jump in 1973). However, these even more audacious Americans suggest that it is time for a change.

The study does, inevitably, have limitations. It is based solely on the scores of the three leading American wine critics – Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and Wine Spectator – and only on wines in vintages from 1970 onwards where all three critics gave a score. You may well ask how they could have missed out the assessments of such authorities as Jancis herself, Matthew Jukes and the Goedhuis buying team…. It does, however, make extremely interesting reading.

For the serious geeks out there you can read the whole learned paper here. Edited highlights below suggest some rather skillful tasting by our buying team, as many of our favourites are listed for promotion.

Chateau Léoville Las Cases from second to first growth
Chateaux Palmer and Calon Ségur from third to second
Chateaux Lynch Bages and Pontet Canet from fifth to second
Chateaux Grand Puy Lacoste, Clerc Milon and d’Armailhac from fifth to third
Chateau Branaire Ducru from fourth to third
Chateaux Batailley and Haut Batailley from fifth to fourth

And earmarked for demotion:
Chateau Mouton Rothschild from first to second growth (although this judgment is rather undermined by the spectacular wines they are currently producing – two wines of the vintage in two years)
Chateaux Gruaud Larose and Lascombes from second to third
Chateau Kirwan from third to fourth
Chateau Brane Cantenac from second to fourth
Chateaux Beychevelle, Prieuré Lichine and Marquis de Terme from fourth to fifth
Chateaux La Lagune, Cantenac Brown and Boyd Cantenac from third to fifth
Chateau Rauzan-Gassies from second to fifth

Somehow, we can’t see the Bordelais embracing these changes, but well done nonetheless to the over-achievers!