Winecast: Bordeaux, Part II

Winecast: Bordeaux, Part II

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hello everyone and welcome to part 2 of the Bordeaux wine cast in part 1 we talked about how Bordeaux is laid out as an appellation and about the sorts of wines that are made there and the grapes that they're made from in part 2 we'll talk about the different classifications that are at play in various parts of Bordeaux that go beyond the standard AOC PDO system that you find throughout France needless to say if you haven't already watched part 1 you might find checking that out to be helpful alright let's get started Bordeaux is almost unique in France for having a number of classifications for
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some of its quality wines apart from the AOC AOP system and these additional classifications differ from AOC is in a pretty significant way the AOC system though it will tell you about winemaking practices is focused on telling you about where the grapes for the wine came from the idea being that the place that the grapes come from makes the wine made from them unique and the smaller and more homogenous an AOC is the more that uniqueness of place or terroir will shine through by contrast the additional Bordeaux
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classifications don't try to rank pieces of land like regions villages or vineyards instead they rank producers which in Bordeaux are known as Chateau these rankings are based on a chateaus ability to consistently produce wine of quality over time and not based on specific vineyards that the Chateau gets its grapes from this is huge because this system represents an early form of branding a concept more closely associated with new world wine industries like those in the United States in which the quality of the wine
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is thought to derive more from the company or brand that produced it than from where the grapes were grown it also leads to some interesting situations in which say to Chateau one highly classified and one not classified at all might own rose of vines that are right next to each other with no noticeable differences in terroir in a case like that the unclassified Chateau will only be able to charge a fraction for wines made from its vines whereas the classified Chateau can charge considerably more for wines made from
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vines a row or two over and if the classified Chateau purchased the vines of the unclassified Chateau then the grapes from those vine would suddenly be worth much more than they were when they were in the hands of the unclassified chato this may not seem like a big deal to American consumers for whom the concept of focusing on brand over specifics about where the grapes came from is an accepted part of American wine culture but keep it in mind and we'll talk about some of the controversy surrounding it toward the end of the cast altogether there are
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five significant classifications that we should look at so let's start with the best-known the 1855 classification of the Madoc and of the sweet wines of the Grove this classification was ordered in 1855 by the Emperor Napoleon the third that's not the really famous Napoleon that's actually his uncle but the Napoleon that we're talking about Napoleon the third in advance of the Exposition Universelle in Paris wanted an effective way to showcase and market
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the wines of Bordeaux to an international audience the Emperor was pretty smart knew that folks back then liked best of lists as much as we do now so the plan was to rank the best producers in a list quality of course is hard to quantify but price isn't and luckily for Napoleon the third the wine brokers of Bordeaux middlemen known as courtiers who helped get wine from producers to merchants who would then sell it had detailed records of the prices of Bordeaux wines and going back
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centuries in some cases using these as their guide they rank the top producers of dry Reds in the made all kind of sweet wines in magrav based on the sort of prices these wines could fetch over time this classification has been influential and is still very much around today currently there are 61 chateau in the dry Reds category and 26 chateau in the sweet whites category if you do a little research into the classification you'll probably see different numbers of Chateau given for when the classification actually
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occurred in 1855 for instance you'll probably see 58 or 57 made all Chateau instead of 61 that's due to changes of ownership and the splitting up as well as the merging of different Chateau but all of the current producers in the classification can trace their pedigrees to a chateau that was classified in 1855 the producers were classified again based on prices they had been charging into five crew or growths with first growth being the most prestigious and fifth the least all of the producers
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were from the Madoc with one exception Chateau or pre-owned from Grove specifically from the north of Grove in the area that would become Pesach Leone on in 1987 only one chateau has ever moved from one growth or crew to another and that was Chateau Mouton will shield in 1973 after decades of aggressive lobbying on the part of the chateaus owner the Baron Philippe the roll shield though all but one of the Chateau are from the Madoc they aren't evenly spread
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out over that region and most of them were associated with one of four villages or communes Santa Steff which is number three on the map poi yak number four sawn julienne number five and the relatively large Margaux number eight to the south here's a visual representation of the classification with five chateau at the top and 14 14 10 and 18 and the succeeding crew the first or Prem EA crew has names in it that are known throughout the wine world
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starting with Lafitte later lafite-rothschild which was ranked at the very top in terms of its ability to command prices in 1855 followed by Margaux Latour Aubry ohm from Grove and then joined in 1973 by Mouton Rothschild when buying a Bordeaux how do you know that you're getting wine from this classification well Chateau that were classified in 1855 are entitled to tell you so on their labels though they have some leeway in terms of the specific language that they have to use so you'll
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see several slightly different terms depending on the personal preference of the Chateau you're likely to see the phrase Grand Cru Class A and classified great growth on the label possibly followed by a phrase specifically connecting it to the 1855 classification like you see on the left first growths will usually tell you that they're a premier Grand Cru fossae but as lafite-rothschild the biggest of the big dogs from 1855 and pictured on the right shows that's not a requirement in fact lafite-rothschild
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usually doesn't identify itself as a classified growth at all let's face it if you don't already know there's something special about this wine the price will be what tells you chateau and the other growths won't usually tell you what growth they're in but a pretty consistent exception has been Chateau Leoville PFF a that will happily tell you that it's a second growth a couple of caveats to watch out for on the left is the label of a very highly regarded fifth growth Chateau Lynch Bosch and on
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the right is the label of its second wine echo second wines were a relatively new concept in Bordeaux and represent wine that the Chateau doesn't feel lives up to its standard of excellence for the flagship classified wine that it produces so they're released under a different name though usually was something to connect them back to the Chateau of origin this is a great way to allow consumers to sample wines from classified producers without breaking the bank while at the same time not diluting or damaging the brand of the classified wine how can you spot the
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difference between the chateaus first wine in its second wine first while the second wine will usually refer back to its producer it won't normally use the word chateau on its label like almost all first wines deal but second and most importantly the label won't have a statement relating it back to the 1855 classification see it's not just the producer that was classified in 1855 but the producers wine and thus only the first or principal wine that a classified Chateau makes is entitled to
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use the classification going back to the concept of branding and marketing the difference between being able to use the classification or not is reflected in the price at the time of this cast mid-2016 a good price for the 2009 echo was around $50 American a bottle but the same vintage of the Lynch Bosch first wine was running around four times that finally don't confuse any of these terms with the Grande Vaughn de Bordeaux that you'll see a lot and I mean on board a labels this is an unregulated
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term that doesn't refer to any classification and is used by custom to mean that the wine in the bottle represents the first or the flagship wine of the producer in other words it's the best wine the producer has to offer even though it may stink but of course it could also be very good sweet wines were also classified in 1855 they were broken into a three-tiered system of crew that looked like this there are first and second growth tiers with a special single occupancy superior first
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growth tier for the legendary Chateau d'Yquem which still remains a benchmark in quality for these types of wines all of the producers classified for sweet wines were from the communes of so taryn and barzakh which are numbers 36 and 37 on the map and the wines from barsac are entitled to use the more prestigious so Terran appellation on the label if they so choose as we talked about on the previous cast these wines are driven by the grapes semion with maybe a little solving Yann Blanc thrown into goose things up but the real secret to their
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success is botrytis botrytis sometimes called noble rot is a fungus that in certain white grapes concentrates the sugars in the grape and gives the juice a unique flavor sometimes described as honeyed the result of wine made from botrytized white grapes can be an intensely sweet and flavorful wine that is highly sought after as in the case of wines from bar socks so Tarin as well as other parts of Bordeaux France and the world here are some things to look for on labels for this classification the
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grande Dom of the classification Chateau d'Yquem usually doesn't let you know on the label that there's anything special about them but everyone else takes advantage of the classification in some form or another you can usually count on the first growths or Premier Cru to let you know that that's the ranking usually you'll see saw Terran as the appellation but a few of the bar sock producers will cop to where they're from as with the Madoc wines you'll see a lot of variation how they represent their status with a few of the Chateau being willing to tell you
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that they're from the second or the Duke cm growth but most preferring to stick with a generic reference to being classified in 1855 or just to being classified in addition to the 1855 classification the Madoc has two other classifications for its Reds the first is the crew bourgeois first drawn up in 1932 and meant to be renewed every 10 years it was supposed to represent the best chateau in the Madoc that didn't make the cut for the 1855 classification because this
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classification tried to ground itself in actual quality and not something more easily quantified like price every list produced has had its critics and things got so bad at one point that the category was even annulled in 2003 over controversies about who made the grade and who didn't and why the category was revived again in 2008 actually in 2010 for the 2008 vintage and is now renewed yearly and classifies individual lines and not Chateau currently there are about 250 producers who have access to
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this category for one of their wines there's also the less contentious Cru artis on which was a nineteenth-century classification that went by the wayside and then was revived in 2006 classification is by jury every 10 years and currently 44 producers are in this category on labels you'll spot either category pretty easily as they are plainly labeled together the three Madoc classifications form a sort of quality pyramid of their own for dry Reds with
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the 1855 classification on top the crew bourgeois on the tier below that and the crew art is on at the base so how relevant today is a classification that's closing in on 200 years old and hasn't changed in a significant way since its origin well that's a question and a half with lots of people wondering for starters if it was ever relevant to begin with after all the 1855 was based on the prices people were willing to pay for the various wines not on the quality of the wines as such true there's often
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a correlation between price and quality but they aren't the same thing and in any event since the classification was rating the Chateau for their winemaking prowess and not their terroir it's worth pointing out that almost all of the chateaux have changed ownership to say nothing of winemakers since they were founded so one has to wonder why we should assume that the same factors that made them great producers in the 19th century should still be at work still when the London International vintners exchanger
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liv-ex recalculated what the classification would have been in 2009 using current prices even though there was a fair amount of movement up and down the classification and some new faces appeared even as some dropped out it was remarkable how many Chateau that were ranked in 1855 stayed on the list and continued to command amazing prices of course all of us could be an example of a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in which consumers are willing to pay exorbitant prices for top 1855 producers
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because those wines were ranked high in the original classification in the first place and there's been a lot of talk in Bordeaux for a while about the notion of super seconds that is Chateau that aren't in the first growth but that have generated enough buzz about their quality that consumers are willing to pay first growth prices for bottles of these wines this list would include a number of actual second growth wines but also some from farther afield like Chateau Palmer from the third growth Lynch baj from the fifth growth and Chateau pop claim all from Pesach Lyon
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Yun how about classifications of dry wines outside of the Madoc they're to the least contentious was Grove in 1953 and 59 ending up with a final list of 16 producers some producing a dry red some producing a dry white and some producing both the Groff classification is a model of simplicity with only one tier Cru Class A or classified growth and all 16 chateau in the classification are from the northern part of Graz specifically
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the Pesach Leone on area a fact that contributed to the creation of that appellation in 1987 so that these classified Chateau could further distinguish themselves from other producers in Grove the 16 chateau includes chateau o pre-owned from the 1855 classification as well is Chateau Papa claim all that liv-ex would have ranked as a second growth if the classification were redone using contemporary pricing data on labels look for Grand Cru Class A and an indication that the wine is from Gras or
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specifically from Pesach Leone on as on this bottle from the excellent Chateau Smith or Lafitte the final Bordeaux classification is the Sante median classification of 1955 which was renewed every 10 years this is the only right bank classification in Bordeaux and it has been one of the most controversial with the most recent list from 2012 currently in dispute there are three tiers in the system that looked like this with a subdivided preemie a Grand
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Cru class a category and a larger Grand Cru Class eight tier the current list shows four Chateau at the very top in subcategory a of the premier Grand Cru Class A level Chateau Asin Cheval Blanc Pahlavi and Angeles and it's worth getting to know each of these names be sure not to confuse the grande crew without the accompanying Class A with the last year in the classification Santa my own Grand
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Cru just represents an extra level of strictness within the Santa milliohm AOC the theoretically any producer in the AOC whether they've been previously classified or not can qualify for without any formal classification and wines with just santa million Grand Cru on the label and not the additional Class A are not considered part of the Sun timothy own classification on labels there's a clear distinction between premier Grand Cru Class A and Grand Cru Class A as you can see here the four
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chateau in the a subcategory of the top-level may add the letter A to their full designation but the 14 Chateau in the B sub category usually won't add the letter B to theirs and again don't confuse either of those with just the garden-variety Gronk rue which really doesn't mean much in Santa neon finally everything we've talked about so far has had to do with classifications going on at the PDO AOC of the French quality pyramid but Bordeaux is part of an IG P or middle
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quality region called lot LAN teak that is itself subdivided into smaller IDP areas if you find wines from one of these iGPS they're definitely worth checking out because while highly classified Bordeaux's from small AOC s can be pretty exciting stuff a lot of the wine made at the big regional Bordeaux AOC level can be pretty mediocre and some of the stuff coming out of the iGPS can be better quality more innovative and even a little less expensive alright that was
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a lot of Bordeaux so good thing we broke up this cast thanks for joining me and look for some shorter wine casks coming up to focus on grape varietals and their characteristics I'm doing these at the request of a subscriber and I'll be interspersing them among the longer casts about general wine topics so if you have any requests for something you'd like covered hit me up in the comments and let me know what you're thinking about please like and subscribe of this cast and others have been helpful and enjoyable I'm your host the unknown wine caster and I'm out enjoy the grape but always enjoy it
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responsibly

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