Alexis Lichine's classification of Bordeaux wine

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In considering the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, Alexis Lichine held the opinion that the list, some hundred years after the selection was made, no longer expressed the whole truth concerning the ranking of Bordeaux wine.[1] Working for a reevaluation and change of structure of the classification of Bordeaux estates, he ended up spending much of his professional life on a campaign that lasted more than thirty years to accomplish a revision.[2] Having published his Classification des Grands Crus Rouges de Bordeaux in 1962, with several revisions over the following years, Lichine came to be viewed as "the doyen of unofficial classification compilers".[3]


In 1959, a committee of which Lichine was a member as well as leading Bordeaux growers, shippers and brokers, was formed to decide what was to be done about reclassifying the work of 1855. Investigations revealed to what extent parcels of land had exchanged hands, some were considered insignificant but in other cases important transfers of terrain had taken place.[4] It is acknowledged that at the time the list was compiled in great haste, primarily on the basis of which estates had consistently commanded the highest prices.[5] While there was widespread agreement the 1855 classification had flaws, a general view remained that it was impossible to improve upon it.

The committee made a formal request to proceed with the revision in 1960. Opting for three categories instead of five, removing 18 chateaux and adding 13 new ones with updates every five years provoked reactions of outrage among those who faced great loss, "Château owners demoted or entirely deleted… condemned the ranking as malicious, incompetent and unjust."[2][6] The Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) was called to arbitrate, but it became decided that the jurisdiction of INAO was too limited to resolve a matter of this complexity. After two years of efforts, the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Académie des Vins de Bordeaux also became involved in the debate surrounding the reforms.[4] Recognising that the process would take a great deal of time, Lichine decided to publish his own classification.


In agreement with the committee, Lichine believed that, just as the principal philosophy behind the 1855 classification, price would be the most reliable indicator, but a revision could not let the transfer of first-rate soil go unchallenged.[4] It was also important to identify cases where highly classified estates had become surpassed by those rated Fifth Growth or Cru Bourgeois, and addressing the 1855 classification's neglect of properties from other areas than Médoc, namely those of Graves, Saint-Émilion and Pomerol.[4] Attempting to bring these areas together under one classification was considered unique to the Lichine rating.[3]

Lichine also believed that no classification could be planned for a shorter span than 25–50 years since frequent changes would create consumer confusion and loss of public confidence, but saw the 1855 classification as evidence that no ruling can remain valid indefinitely.

Lichine was convinced that rankings of "first", "second", etc. were a mistake that should not be repeated, unfairly implying that there was, for instance, something second-rate about a Second Growth.[4] Choosing to adapt and expand on the ranks used in the classifications of Graves and Saint-Émilion, Lichine arrived at the categories: Outstanding Growths, Exceptional Growths, Great Growths, Superior Growths and Good Growths.

Lichine, chosen the "1987 Man of the Year" by Decanter for achievements in wine, successfully revising the 1855 classification was not one of them.

Among the most visible changes was the elevation of Château Mouton Rothschild from its second growth status to Cru Hors Classe, which was the only of his suggestions ever to be realised.[7] Mouton Rothschild was promoted to Premier Cru status in 1973.


Lichine's classification was published in 1962 and revised in 1966. Later revisions followed until the last version was published in 1985, though the final classification was dated to 1978.[3] Never coming to fruition before Lichine's death, some of the reasons are believed to be the 1855 establishment's political muscle, prosperity and prospects, social status, market clout, professional and personal prestige and conservatism.[6]

Resigned to the fact that no revision would be made, Lichine wrote in 1986, "when one considers the outcry, disputes and lawsuits brought about by a new classification proposed for St.-Emilion in 1985,[8][9] one must reluctantly conclude that no such new classification - however much needed - is likely to win adoption."[10]

Other published classifications that attempt to revise the 1855 ranking include a top 100 ranking by Robert Parker and L'histoire de la vigne & du vin (English: The History of Wine and the Vine) by Bernard and Henri Enjalbert, efforts by Clive Coates (MW) and David Peppercorn (MW),[3][5][10] as well as a 2009 re-calculation by the British wine exchange Liv-ex.[11]

Classification des Grands Crus Rouges de Bordeaux[edit]

The final 1978 revision with comparison notes to the 1966 revision.

Haut-Médoc   Graves    Saint-Émilion   Pomerol  
Crus Hors Classe
Château Lafite Rothschild Château Margaux Château Latour
Château Mouton Rothschild Château Haut-Brion Château Cheval Blanc
Château Ausone Château Pétrus
Crus Exceptionnels
Château Beychevelle Château Brane-Cantenac Château Cos d'Estournel[*]
Château Ducru-Beaucaillou[*] Château Gruaud-Larose Château Lascombes
Château Léoville Barton Château Léoville-Las Cases[*] Château Léoville-Poyferré
Château Montrose Château Palmer Château Pichon Lalande
Château Pichon Longueville Domaine de Chevalier[*] Château La Mission Haut-Brion[*]
Château Pape Clément[*][a] Château Figeac[*] Château Magdelaine[a]
Château La Conseillante Château l'Évangile Château Lafleur[a]
Château La Fleur-Pétrus[a] Château Trotanoy[a]
Grands Crus
Château Branaire Château Calon-Ségur[b] Château Cantemerle[b]
Château Cantenac-Brown Château Dufort Château Giscours[*]
Château d'Issan Château La Lagune Château Lynch-Bages[*][b]
Château Malescot St. Exupéry Château Mouton-Baron-Philippe Château Prieuré-Lichine[*]
Château Rausan-Ségla Château Rauzan-Gassies Château Talbot
Château Haut-Bailly[*] Château Beau-Séjour Bécot[a] Château Belair[*][b]
Château Canon[*][b] Clos Fourtet Château La Gaffelière[b]
Château Pavie Château Trottevieille[a] Château Gazin
Château Latour à Pomerol[a] Château Petit-Village[*] Vieux Château Certan[*][b]
Château Nenin[a]
Crus Supérieurs
Château Batailley Château Boyd-Cantenac[*][a] Château Chasse-Spleen
Château Clerc-Milon-Rothschild[a] Château Gloria Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste[b]
Château Haut-Batailley[*] Château Kirwan Château Lagrange[a]
Château Langoa Barton Château Marquis d'Alesme Becker Château Pontet-Canet[b]
Château La Tour Carnet[a] Château Carbonnieux Château de Fieuzal[a]
Château Malartic-Lagravière[*] Château Smith Haut Lafitte Château l'Angélus
Château Balestard-la-Tonnelle[*][a] Château Beauséjour-Duffau-Lagarrosse   Château Cadet-Piola[a]
Château Canon-la-Gaffelière Château La Clotte[a] Château Croque-Michotte
Château Curé-Bon-la-Madeleine Château La Dominique[a] Château Larcis Ducasse
Château Larmande[a] Château Soutard[a] Château Troplong Mondot[a]
Château Villemaurine Château Beauregard Château Certan-Giraud
Château Certan de May[b] Clos l'Église Château l'Église-Clinet
Château Le Gay[a] Château Lagrange Château La Pointe
Bons Crus
Château d'Agassac[a] Château d'Angludet[*] Château Beau-Site[a]
Château Beau-Site Haut-Vignoble[a] Château Bel-Air-Marquis-d'Aligre[b] Château Belgrave
Château de Camensac[*][a] Château Citran[a] Château Cos Labory
Château Croizet Bages[*] Château Dauzac Château Ferrière[b]
Château Fourcas Dupré Château Fourcas Hosten Château Grand-Puy-Ducasse[b]
Cru Gressier Grand Poujeaux Château Hanteillan[a] Château Haut-Bages-Libéral
Château Labégorce[a] Château Labégorce Zédé[a] Château Lafon-Rochet[a]
Château Lanessan Château Lynch-Moussas Château Marbuzet[a]
Château Marquis de Terme Château Maucaillou[a] Château Les Ormes-de-Pez
Château Pédesclaux[a] Château de Pez[*] Château Phélan Ségur
Château Pouget[a] Château Poujeaux Château Saint-Pierre[*]
Château Siran Château du Tertre[a] Château La Tour de Mons[b]
Château Villegeorge[a] Château Bouscaut Château Larrivet-Haut-Brion[a]
Château La Louvière[a] Château La Tour Haut-Brion[b] Château La Tour-Martillac[b]
Château l'Arrosée[a] Château Bellevue[a] Château Cap de Mourlin
Domaine du Chatelet Château Corbin (Giraud) Château Corbin (Manuel)
Château Corbin Michotte Château Coutet Château Dassault[a]
Château La Fleur-Pourret[a] Château Franc-Mayne[a] Château Grace-Dieue
Château Grand Barrail-Lamarzelle-Figeac  Château Grand Corbin Château Grand Corbin-Despagne  
Château Grand-Mayne[a] Château Grand Pontet[a] Clos des Jacobins
Couvent-des-Jacobins Château Guadet-St. Julien[a] Château Laroque[a]
Château Moulin-du-Cadet[a] Château Pavie-Decesse[a] Château Pavie-Macquin[a]
Château Saint-Georges-Côte-Pavie Château Tertre-Daugay[a] Château La Tour-Figeac[a]
Château la Tour-du-Pin-Figeac  Château Trimoulet[a] Château Yon-Figeac[a]
Château Bourgneuf-Vayron[a] Château La Cabanne[a] Château Le Caillou[a]
Château Clinet[a] Clos du Clocher[a] Château La Croix
Château La Croix-de-Gay Domaine de l'Église[a] Château l'Enclos[a]
Château Gombaude-Guillot Château La Grave[a] Trignant de Boisset[a]
Château Guillot[a] Château Moulinet[a] Château Rouget
Clos René[*][a] Château de Sales Château du Tailhas[a]
Château Taillefer[a] Château Vraye-Croix-de-Gay[a]

^ Lichine notes, "These wines are considered better than their peers in this classification".
 a ^ Promoted a tier placement from 1966 to 1978.
 b ^ Relegated a tier placement from 1966 to 1978.

1978 demotions[edit]

Château Capbern Château Dutruch-Lambert   Château Paveil
Château Baleau Château Fonroque Château Les Grandes Murailles   Château Ripeau  
Château Feytit-Clinet     Château la Fleur-Porret Château Mazeyres


  • Lichine, Alexis (1967). Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits (1st ed.). London: Cassell & Company Ltd. pp. 144–148. 
  • Lichine, Alexis (1985). Alexis Lichine's Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits (6th ed.). London: Cassell. pp. 119–121. ISBN 0-304-31124-3. 
  1. ^ Lichine, Alexis. Bordeaux Growths: Classification. p. 145. 
  2. ^ a b Prial, Frank J. The New York Times (1989-08-20). "The Battle of 1855". 
  3. ^ a b c d Peppercorn, David (2003). Bordeaux. London: Mitchell Beazley. p. 47. ISBN 1-84000-927-6. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Lichine, Alexis. Bordeaux Growths: Classification. p. 146. 
  5. ^ a b Prial, Frank J. The New York Times (1991-09-25). "Wine Talk". 
  6. ^ a b Goldberg, Howard G. The Wine News Magazine. "Dusting off the 1855 debate". Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. 
  7. ^ Prial, Frank J. The New York Times (1991-08-07). "Wine Talk". 
  8. ^ Kissack, Chris, "Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot". 
  9. ^ Peppercorn, David (2003). Bordeaux. London: Mitchell Beazley. p. 394. ISBN 1-84000-927-6. 
  10. ^ a b Prial, Frank J. The New York Times (1988-02-17). "Wine Talk". 
  11. ^ Liv-ex Fine Wine Market blog (March 10, 2009). The Liv-ex Bordeaux Classification