top of page

The Story Behind the World's Most Expensive Wines


In 1855, the profoundly-influential historic document was constituted at the Exposition Universelle de Paris. The Emperor Napoleon III had set 5 unique classes for Bordeaux red wines based on their reputation and transaction prices, in order to let those consumers who were not able to taste all of the wines with limited quantities to make purchasing decisions. From the original list to today, the classification only includes red wines from the Medoc, the Sauternes and Barsac sweet white wines, and one Graves red cru. 160 years later after the list was made, many of the original 1855 classification is still valid.

Wine Chateau in France Vineyards

Tracing back to the 1600’s, the wines in Bordeaux had already been unofficially classified. In the very beginning, overseas buyers were only sought for wines in the name of Bordeaux Appellation. The first exclusive estates that gained the world’s attention for their specific wines were Lafite, Latour, Margaux and Haut Brion. They were listed as the most expensive and finest wines of Bordeaux by the critics. Their long-standing fame earned their places in the First Growths at the top of the list until today. Later on, Bordeaux wines began to be sold by their appellation due to their increasing popularity among merchants.

The first draft of the classification was created in 1787 when Thomas Jefferson who eventually became the U.S. President ranked the wines in the Medoc as a whole and created his own list of Bordeaux wines. It was found to be similar with the official classification drawn up 75 years later. Eventually, numerous books and critics continued to modify and expand the list. On April 5th, 1855, Napoleon III was requested to formally announce a myriad of France’s best Bordeaux wines to the world, the Wine Brokers’ Union of Bordeaux had been ordered and completed the official 1855 Bordeaux classification.

Today with no doubt, the official 1855 classification has continued being reliable and reasonable since its inception. Despite that only three changes have been made on the list after a century, it remains high accuracy in reflecting the relative quality between the wines and their distinctive values which are also set as the standards for the other wines around the world.

1855 classification.png

Bordeaux Grand Cru Classes en 1855 Classification

bottom of page