Q: Is there a hard and fast way to look at a Bordeaux wine label and tell whether it's a first-, second-, third-, fourth- or fifth-growth (other than knowing by memory which châteaus are which)? —Steve H., Nederland, Texas
A: This is a good question, but there's no easy answer. Bordeaux first-growths specify on their label that they are a "Premier" Grand Cru. But you probably know which ones they are without prompting (Haut-Brion, Latour, Lafite, Margaux and Mouton-Rothschild). As for the rest, confusion reigns. Few châteaus indicate on their labels whether they are second-, third- or, for that matter, fifth-growths. You may see the phrase Grand Cru Classé en 1855 (Grand Cru classified in 1855), or the words "Grand Vin" (great wine). Château Léoville-Las-Cases' label simply states Grand Vin de Léoville with no reference to its classification. So if you can't memorize the 58 estates originally listed in the 1855 classification, print out executive editor Thomas Matthews' excellent article on the subject.
Have a question about collecting or auctions? E-mail us.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions