Fourth stage (also Quatrième Cru Classé) in the context of the Bordeaux classification for red wines of the Médoc in 1855, see there.
This famous wine-growing area is part of the French region of Bordeaux; the name means "middle country". It is located northwest of the city of Bordeaux on the triangular peninsula between the Gironde estuary, formed by the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean. The approximately 70 kilometre long and 5 to 12 kilometre wide strip of land, which is dominated by many vineyards, is occasionally interrupted by pastureland, scrubland and polders (floodplain). The area is divided into two regional appellations (Bas-Médoc and Haut-Médoc) and six communal appellations located within Haut-Medoc, with around 16,000 hectares of vineyards. Médoc is probably the most famous appellation of the Bordelais and also one of the most important and best red wine regions in France and the world.
Viticulture came relatively late to this area. In the 17th century, under the guidance of Dutch dam and hydraulic engineering specialists, the coasts were straightened, swampy ground was drained and streams were regulated. This is why the area was called "La Petite Hollande" for a long time. As there was no viticulture in the area at that time, the Dutch bought wines from the "Bordeaux hinterland", which was called Haut-Pays and the wines from there were called "Vin de Haut" or in Dutch "Hooglansche Wijn". Later on, many vineyards were planted or small areas were acquired and combined into larger estates, among others by the famous Ségur family. Médoc has particularly good conditions for winegrowing. These are the mild Kima, the very sparse and deep gravel soil, which in many places forces the vines to dig their roots deep, and the good water drainage in the soil. Despite the close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the climate is not humid, as the many pine forests provide excellent shelter from winds and rain from the west.
Médoc is divided into the northern Bas-Médoc area (usually referred to somewhat confusingly as Médoc because it does not refer to the whole area) with 5,600 hectares and the southern Haut-Médoc area with 4,600 hectares of vineyards (the sizes refer to the two appellations excluding the six communes listed below). The border runs at Saint-Seurin-de-Cadourne, north of the commune of Saint-Estèphe. Haut-Médoc begins at the southern corner of the commune of Blanquefort, which forms the northern border with the Graves area. Both areas are also entitled to their own appellation. They are distinguished by quite different soil types. In Haut-Médoc, due to the gravelly soil, the wines are classified a little higher and have more race and finesse. The six famous communes of Margaux, Moulis, Listrac-Médoc, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien form their own appellations within Haut-Médoc.
Wines from the other communes have the origin "Haut-Médoc", while those from Bas-Médoc are simply "Médoc" or rarely "Bas-Médoc". They are made from the typical Bordeaux blend of grape varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating in Haut-Médoc and Merlot in Bas-Médoc. The grape variety mix, however, differs mainly in whether one is on the Rive droite (right bank) or Rive gauche (left bank) of Garonne/Dordogne or Gironde. The less important white wines are mainly made from Sauvignon Blanc. Typical of the Médoc are the numerous magnificent châteaux, which also deserve this designation (as "châteaux") from an architectural point of view. But this is not a sign of quality, because there are also wineries with very simple buildings where great wines are produced.
In 1855 the famous Bordeaux classification took place (the cause or the process is described there). Out of a total of 4,000 châteaux or red wines, only 61 (this is the number from today's point of view, see below) were considered worthy of inclusion in the list. With the only exception of Château Haut-Brion from the Graves area, only châteaux from the Médoc are included. The official presentation took place with great pomp on April 18, 1855 and the châteaux were grouped into five classes. Within these five classes, the wines were ordered in descending order based on the average price achieved. At the top of the list was Château Lafite-Rothschild.
The order of the châteaux at that time is shown in the table below. Today the class is rather rarely included on the bottle label, but often only the text "Grand Cru Classé en 1855" is given. The less known Deuxièmes, however, often point out their status in order to be renowned. Also Baron Philippe de Rothschild did not miss the opportunity in 1973 to document the elevation of...