Although today they are considered very prestigious and reputated, the wines from Saint-Emilion and Pomerol were not taken into consideration by the 1855 Medoc classification.
This was probably due to the small surface area of these wine domaines and to the fact that they were dependant on the Libourne district, with its own Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the wines from the Libournais area and its neighbor enclaves were commercialized by local wine merchants.
In 1936, a first classification ranking the Saint-Emilion growths was drawn up. Only twenty years later, in 1954 this classification was officially accepted and in 1958 was finally approved by the INAO (French National Institute for A.O.C. A.O.V.D.Q.S).
As opposed to the Medoc classification, the Saint-Emilion ranking takes quality changes into consideration. This means that it is updated every ten years.
The last update took place in 1996 and the results were published in September of that same year.
Differences between the 1855 Médoc classification
and the 1958 Saint-Emilion ranking:
- Classification never changes- The terms "cru classe" and "appellation d'origine contrôlée" are two different concepts. - Ranking updated every ten years
- Interreliance between "cru classe" and "appellation d'origine contrôlée".
The Saint-Emilion ranking might lead to confusion because of its interdependence with two appellations of the same area:
- Appellation Saint Emilion Contrôlée
- Appellation Saint-
Emilion Grand Cru
The number of wine estates with the right to wear these two appellations vary from year to year. A nine member jury chooses within the quality category "Saint-Emilion Grand Cru" the best growths and then ranks them in the classification. The jury's members are designated by the INAO for a ten year period.
The members of the ranking must fulfill the following requirements:
- The growth had to be commercialized under the same name for at least ten years.
- Only wines of the estate may be vinified in the wine cellar.
- 50 % or more of the vine stocks must be older than 12 years.
- Among the last ten harvests, at least seven must have obtained the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru quality level.
- The wine must be bottled on the estate.The premiers grand crus classés are subdivided into two classes:
- CLASSE A is equivalent to the premiers grands crus classés of the Médoc.
- CLASSE B could be interpreted as the best growths among the deuxièmes grands crus classés of the Médoc.
The Grands Crus classés, are almost equivalent to the third, fourth, and fifth grands crus classés of the Médoc. We also include the best growths among the "crus bourgeois".
All crus classés, with few exceptions, grow up within the A.O.C. bounds of the Saint-Emilion village.
Although the Saint-Emilion classification is updated regularily, it can't reflect everyones tastes and organileptic requirements. To know the veritable values of the different growths, one must try them themselves.
Experience tells that rankings serve well as first guides but they won't present the absolute truth.
Exhaustive list of all wine estates ranked in 1996:
Premiers Grands Crus Classés A
Château Cheval Blanc
Premiers Grands Crus Classés B
Château La Gaffelière
Grands Crus Classés
( 63 châteaux )
Clos des Jacobins
Ch. Canon-La Gaffelière
Ch. Cap de Mourlin
Ch. Le Châtelet
Ch. La Clotte
Ch. La Clusière
Couvent des Jacobins
Ch. Curé Bon La Madeleine
Ch. La Dominique
Ch. Faurie-De-Souchard Ch. Fonplegade
Ch. Grandes Murailles
Ch. Grand Mayne
Ch. Haut Sarpe
St.-Christophe des Bardes)
St.-Laurent des Combes)
Clos La Madeleine
Ch. Moulin du Cadet
Clos de l'Oratoire
Ch. Petit Faurié
Ch. Le Prieuré
Ch. La Serre
Ch. Tertre Daugay
Ch. La Tour Figeac
Ch. La Tour du Pin Figeac (Guiraud)
Ch. La Tour du Pin Figeac (Moueix)
(issued by decree the 7th of August, 1954)
The commune of Saint-Emilion only represents the heart of a much vaster wine area. Before 1936 the neighboring villages called "the satellites of Saint-Emilion" were part of the Saint Emilion vineyards and therefore their wines were sold under the local Saint Emilion appellations.
For a question of quality, image and marketing, the wine estates lying within the A.O.C. boundaries of the commune of Saint-Emilion didn't appreciate the fact, that the satellites could sell their wines under Saint-Emilion appellations. They decided to exclude them from the Saint-Emilion A.O.C. boundaries by creating appellations which govern the satellites' wine production.
Dissatisfied with this exclusion, the five satellite communes of Lussac, Montagne, Parsac, Puisseguin and St.-Georges negociated to add the name of Saint-Emilion to their proper names.
In that way, the array of Bordeaux appellations was enriched by five new ones:
- A.O.C. Lussac Saint-Emilion
- A.O.C. Montagne Saint-Emilion
- A.O.C. Parsac Saint-Emilion
- A.O.C. Puisseguin Saint-Emilion
- A.O.C. St.-Georges Saint-Emilion.
Among the Saint-Emilion satellites the commune of Montagne is the broadest one covering 1,500 ha (3,750 acres). In 1973, Montagne merged with the St.Georges and Parsac communes. The A.O.C. Lussac St.-Emilion spreads over 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres). Among the satellites, this commune is the most northern and its soils are particularly cold. Less than 200 hectares (500 acres) are covered by this appellation. For lack of notoriety, the A.O.C. winegrowers prefer to launch their wines under the Montagne Saint-Emilion appellation. Touching the Bordeaux Côtes-de-Francs wine area in the east, the A.O.C. Puisseguin Saint-Emilion spreads over 710 hectares (1,770 acres).
THE ESTATES' SURFACES
The wine estates' surfaces vary largely in this appellation. Several vast domains, covering 30 ha (75 acres) or more dominate the market. But generally the wine farms have a family character, their surface varying from 5 to 10 ha (12.5 to 25 acres). Rather small are this area's wine estates, which rarely exceed 5 to 8 hectares (12.5 to 20 acres), still preserving a friendly family character. Up to 20 % of the vinters vinify in the local co-op. Generally the wine estates' surfaces are less than 10 hectares (25 acres). The vineyards are divided into small parcels. A large number of winegrowers prefer to vinify in one of the local co-ops. This wine area is also dominated by small wine domains whose surfaces vary from 5 to 10 hectares (12.5 to 25 acres). Almost half of the vintners vinify their wines at the local co-op.
THE APPELLATIONS' SOIL STRUCTURES
Puisseguin Saint-Emilion Montagne Saint-Emilion
Most of the vineyards profit from a south and south-west facing exposure important for the grapes' maturing cycle.
The vines grow on a clayey-calcareous soil, lying on a gravelly subsoil.
This composition not only permits a deep rooting of the vine stocks but also a very good and natural draining of rain water. Calcareous, clayey-calcareous and clayey-gravelly slopes produce well-constituted and robust wines.
In the northernmost area of the appellation the soils are siliceous and made of clay.
A calcareous-clayey plateau producing well-structured but less fleshy wines than those produced on the slopes, stretches over the wine area's center.
Lussac Saint-Emilion Saint-Georges Saint-Emilion
The wine area covered by the A.O.C. Lussac can be divided into three sectors with different soil structures:
- In the south-east, calcareous and clayey-calcareous slopes dominate the skyline.
- Successive gravel and sand-gravel layers characterize the soil in the appellation's western part.
- In the northernmost area the vines grow on pure clay soils. These rather cold soils lying on the plain at the foot of the slopes produce rustic and less charming wines. This appellation spreads over a very small surface whose geological homogeneity is exceptional for the Bordeaux wine region.
Clayey-calcareous soils lie on either limestone subsoils (with sea fossils) or on pure clay subsoils.
The vines grow exclusively on the south and south-west facing slopes, exposing them to optimal sunshine as well as providing them with an effective and natural drain for rain water.