As a result of factors such as the quality of the soil and subsoil from Bordeaux, grape varieties, techniques used, and human skill, some crus gain such fame that they are considered to be the best of their appellation or of their area at a given time.
The history of Bordeaux wines
Before this happens, though, and regardless of the quality of the Bordeaux wine, a number of criteria are applied to establish a classification and place the wine in a context. Even so, any classification is relative and can be disputed. A cru which has been neglected by an impoverished owner could be taken over by someone who is active, dynamic, wealthy and, most importantly, competent, and might begin to produce better wine. But the opposite could happen just as easily.
Therefore, classifications must be considered only in terms of the factors used to establish them. Similarly, it is important not to confuse tastings, which are held at various intervals, with these criteria. Even if they are subject to time, the classifications take into account elements that owe nothing to the palates of wine experts and gurus.
Based on the notion of crus, which was established in the seventeenth century—the first step towards creating an official ranking— the classification system for Gironde wines is unlike any other. The Bordeaux wine market is governed by a simple system involving three roles: the broker, the merchant, and the owner. By the eighteenth century this system already allowed brokers, who held a privileged role, to establish ratings for different wines. This relied not only on the brokers tasting skills but also, particularly, on their knowledge of the vineyards. The concepts of “Grand Cru” and “Second Cru” which took shape from the beginning of the eighteenth century in the main vineyards (Haut-Brion, Margaux, Latour, Lafite, etc.), are a result of their qualitative assessments of the various terroirs (soil and growing conditions).
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