ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

How do they classify the Bordeaux wine as “first-growth,” “second-growth,” “third-growth,” etc.? Do they rank it as per its reputation and quality or because they are expensive?

—Harry R., Nepal

Dear Harry,

Would you believe that it’s from a ranking that was created more than 150 years ago? In the Bordeaux Classification of 1855, wine brokers ranked châteaus on both reputation and price, from first “growth,” or cru, all the way down to fifth.

Even though a lot has changed over the years, the classification has remained intact. Perhaps the most significant change came in 1973, when Mouton-Rothschild was elevated to first-growth, making a total of five, along with Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux and Haut-Brion.

The rankings still have a big influence on the market, and the first-growths have a reputation for high quality—and their prices match that expectation. But plenty of lower growths and wines that aren’t part of the classification system at all can be priced just as high or taste just as good.

—Dr. Vinny


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