The 1855 Sauternes & Barsac Classification
It is often forgotten that when the wine brokers of Bordeaux compiled their
list of the finest red wines in the Gironde for the 1855 Exposition Universelle
de Paris, they did one for the wines of Sauternes and Barsac at the same time.
They used the same methodology, ranking the wines based on price and putting
them into quality tiers of Classed Growths. In this case there were only two
tiers, First and Second Growths, with 21 estates included.
The wines of Sauternes were incredibly highly regarded at the time, and this is
reflected in the classification of 9 First Growths, compared to 4 for the reds,
and of the creation of an über-category of 'Superior First Growth' for Ch.
d'Yquem, of which no red wine was deemed worthy. Just as for the red wines,
the number of classified château has increased since 1855, from 21 to 27. No
official promotions or amendments have ever been made (à la Mouton), but
several estates like 'Doisy', 'Rabaud' and 'Peyraguey' have been split into 2
or more châteaux, and one Second Growth, 'Pexoto', has gone to Sauternes
heaven, although its vineyards are now part of Ch. Rabaud-Promis.
If the red wine classification of the Médoc remains important, that for
Sauternes is largely meaningless and of historical interest only. While the
classification includes all the region's great names, these days the châteaux
make their reputations by other means.
Premier Cru Supérieur (Superior First Growth)