The evaluation of vineyards or sites and division into quality classes has an ancient tradition in French Burgundy. The first classifications date back to the Middle Ages and originate from the Cistercian monks. The natural scientist Jules Lavalle (1820-1880) published the work "Histoire et Statistique de la Vigne de Grands Vins de la Cote-d'Or" in 1855, which was largely based on the work "Statistique de La Vigne Dans Le Departement de La Cote-D'Or" published by Denis Morelot in 1831. Lavalle's book is also considered to be Burgundy's "answer" to the famous Bordeaux Classification, published the same year.
In this comprehensive history of Burgundy vineyards, 29 grape varieties are also described in terms of their suitability. Based on his own book, Lavalle completed a first systematic classification in 1861, which was presented at the World Exhibition in London a year later. The vineyards or wines were divided into four quality classes: Tête de cuvée or Hors ligne, Première cuvée, Deuxième cuvée and Troisième cuvée. The system was later recognised, in a slightly modified form, by the agricultural authority in Beaune and was largely reproduced by the INAO in 1936 when the AOC classification system was introduced.