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Ep 19 TNWG Wine Times: What is the 1855 Classification?

You may have heard discussions or over heard others talking about an 1855 Classification in wine. Or maybe you have been a little over wrought by the idea of Premier Cru, Grand Cru. Well in addition to an earlier episode of TNWG Wine Times where we looked at wine bottle labels, here we will unravel a few common terms and their meanings too.

What is the 1855 Classification (Grand Cru Classe)?

🥂 The 1855 classification was created because by the middle of the 18th century wines from top tiered vineyards in Bordeaux such as Margaux, were already considered to be one of, if not THE best, wines in the world. The creation of such came about because there needed to be a distinction between qualities of wine for everyone around the world. Thus, brokers within the wine industry ranked the wines according to a Chateau's reputation and trading price - which at that moment in time, was directly linked to the quality of the produce in the bottle. 

🥂 By 1855 the Exposition Universelle de Paris was taking place, think very much these days as a major exhibition. Previously informal assessments had been made on classifications of the wines but none had been made permanent or either carried much recognition to be warranted until now and Napolean III wanted to see a classification.

🥂 The way it was carried out saw 61 leading vineyard establishments producing red wines, ranked with 60 from the Medoc and 1 from Graves. (There were also sweet wines included from Barsac and Sauternes and in total 88 wineries includ). They were then ranked in to 5 tiers, which were referred (and still are today in some quarters) to as Crus or Growths. Maybe you have heard the terms 'First Growth' or 'Second Growth' - well these were First Growths or 'Premiers Crus' down to Fifth Growths 'Cinquiemes Crus'.

🥂 At Premiers Crus Level - 5 wineries, Second Growths - 14 wineries, Third Growth - 14 wineries, Fourth Growth - 10 wineries, Fifth Growth - 18 wineries (Sweet Wines Premiers Crus Superior - 1 winery (Chateau d' Yquem), Premiers Crus - 11 wineries, Second Growth - 15 wineries).

🥂 Within each category, the chateaux are ranked by quality and there have only been two instances where there has ever been any changes to this 1855 classification. In 1856, not one year after the classifications came out, Cantemerle was added to the Fifth Growths.

Secondly, and more well known by many, in 1973, when Chateau Mouton Rothschild were elevated from Second Growth to First Growth - after needless to say, a lot of debate and argument for many years!

Why is this important today?

💡 The system is still used today and it is the basis from which pricing for those Grand Cru establishments has been created and traded ever since. Moreover, the largest wine exchange, Liv-Ex in March 2009 even released 'The Liv-Ex Bordeaux Classification' which used a modern versioned calculation of the 1855 Classification to apply to modern economics for pricing.

So does this mean that First Growths are the best, or that Third Growths are better than Fifth Growths?

Not necessarily is the answer. When considering fine wine investments then First Growths are hugely important because of their stature and historical relevance and performance, therefore are the most sought after. But here is the distinction in consuming vs investing which we have seen come up a lot in my writing of late.

As a consumer, quality has varied over the years especially in the large number of vintages between now and 1855 - so it comes down to personal preference and monetary value that you are willing to spend to ascertain your favourite or the wine that your palate prefers. What can be said, is that these are all highly rated wineries and have made exceptional bottles of wine at a very elevated consistent level for a very long period of time. Obviously there will be vintage variation not least from climatical reasons but also personnel, farming and technological changes too, but the symbolic 1855 classification remains strong even today.

I hope this helps clarify a bit more on the 1855 classification.


🍷 A few people have commented that I've picked Red Wines more often than not for this weekly category and that is probably fair too. So I have this week picked a beautiful indigenous grape varietal which I was fortunate to taste at Prowein from a northern Buglarian winery showcasing their produce. I could have also depicted a black varietal called Rubin too.

🍷 The Vrachanski Misket is an old varietal, one of said to be around 100 varieties that are indigenous to Bulgaria. The skins are greenish yellow in colour and is part of their Tochka range of wines from their boutique winery. Pale, golden in colour in the glass, it had intense aromas of white flowers as well as a hint of nectarine. On the palate, the floral notes continued to impress but with a more green apple, lime, hint of lemon flavour profile which was elegant and perfect for the sunny Spring days ahead!



An interesting concept this one this week, given that previously we have spoken about the increase in AI in all manner of industries including the drinks business. This article looks into 'social shaming' as a result of the younger generation using phones much more than ever before and this as a correlation to less consumption of alcohol. Interesting take!



On the week (as at 21st March 12:45 LDN) changes:

EQUITIES: ⬆️ FTSE 100 up 1.2%; ⬆️ DAX up 0.45%; ⬆️ S&P 500 up 1%; ⬆️Nikkei 225 up 5.4%; ⬆️ Dow Jones up 1.2%;

COMMODITIES: ⬆️ Brent Oil up 1.1% ; ⬆️ Crude Oil up 0.47% ; ⬆️ Gold up 1.88%; ⬆️ Silver up 1.5%; ⬆️ Copper up 0.6%

BONDS (in yield terms): ⬇️ UK 2yrs lower 0.135%; ⬇️ UK 10yrs lower 0.037%; ⬆️ German 10yrs higher 0.0305%, ⬇️ US 2yrs lower 0.064%; ⬆️ US 10yrs higher 0.047%;

It's been a heavily weighted Central Bank week, the BoJ raising rates to now not be in negative territory any longer, albeit very telegraphed in doing so; where the FOMC in the US left rates unchanged and continued along the mantra of 3 cuts being priced for this year (via the 'dot plot' aka The Summary of Economic Projections). The BOE suggesting that the June month is very much in play for the first cut in interest rates in the UK; the SNB getting a drop on all other developed markets with a cut, catching the market unaware. Norges in line with expectations of no cuts to interest rates this month albeit referencing the likely future restrictions on rates.

So as you were mostly? Well yes, largely overall. Gold is at all time highs and would expect some precious metals, especially Silver to get a decent bid tone on the follow, so would like to have some small long exposure there. Crypto? Who knows, I leave that to the crypto guys to explain, for me I'm not buying it.

Domestically, there are opportunities to see fixed rates starting to appear for utilities which will bring with it a huge sigh of relief as we embark on some warmer weather and ideally reduction in household expenditure.

In fine wine, there has been an uptick in data overall on selected lines, for example the likes of Salon Le Mesnil 2012 managed a whopping 19.9% growth month on month from Jan to Feb according to data (Liv-Ex 29/02). Indeed the Super Tuscans have also had a good time of it overall with the likes of Masseto 2019, Sassicaia 2020 and Tignanello 2020 all seeing very good month on month growth. However, the overall index was still down and as a reflection of the wider interest rates and market levels, see more potential in looking to add fine wine exposure later in the year - in line with rate cut timings.

Looking ahead, we are approaching the last days of the financial year, make sure that you have locked up your full entitlement of ISAs and placed the allowed allowances in the likes of your pensions. These will then have a new year's entitlement on the horizon, so ensure once again, you look, especially at current interest rates domestically and in developed markets more generally, to lock in those rates - the British ISA too of course, before then we begin to digest market levels for investment flows and asset allocations at the end of April.


1) In Sheffield, we have another Wine Tasting Event to announce with The Northern Wine Guy - get your tickets booked now as we explore wines for Spring!

Date: Saturday 11th May

Location: The Picture House Social, 383 Abbeydale Road, Nether Edge, Sheffield S7 1FS

Time: 2pm till 4pm

Price £25pp - Book using the link below!


2) Have you ever wondered where you get the finest Australian wines from in the UK? Well think no further, Australian Vintners Ltd have been setup to do exactly that and here is the link to the best that Australia produces - I will certainly be partaking, will you? 

3) Continuing the Podcast themes - we had 2 more podcasts recently, first up with Avondale Wine Estate  from South Africa, with an INCREDIBLE amount of knowledge on the South African wines being produced, the terroir, the challenges, the way to biodynamic farming and so much more - a must for any South African wine fans:

The second podcast released is today with the wonderful Libby Brodie who is a highly influential wine writer and communicator and recognised with a large number of awards as a result. This is part of The Northern Wine Guy Podcast Show series namely What Bottle Is On Your Table, Tonight?

This series looks into finding out more about the challenges and barriers to entry of those who are now well established and recognised leaders in the wine and drinks industry, as well as how they have established themselves and what 2024 has in store for them or areas they want to recommend.

4) Ever wanted to own Fine Wine but just feel it is out of reach. Then take a look at my good friend's over at Winning Cellar they run competitions designated to end up with the winner receiving fine wine as their prize. Take a look inside their website for more details - it is a fabulous way to potentially win an outstanding wine at low cost for entry!

That's all from this week folks.

Cheers 🍷

Andy aka The Northern Wine Guy

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