The vineyards of Saint Émilion on the Bordeaux right bank were first classified in 1955. However one of the key differences to the vineyards in the Médoc on the left bank (which were classified in 1855), is that the St Émilion classification is revised on a regular basis - about every 10 years.
In 2006 a new classification was announced but then suspended after a series of court appeals by four chateaux that had been demoted.
On September 7th 2012 a new classification system was announced. After all of the legal fuss, all but one of the chateaux demoted in 2006 were reinstated. (Chateau de la Tour du Pin Figeac was the exception). The Saint Emilion wine council claimed that it was the result of an improvement in quality in subsequent vintages and has stood by the independence and transparency of the classification system.
Several properties have "disappeared" because their wine production has been absorbed into neighbouring/sister chateaux.
In all there are 82 properties (an increase from the 74 of the last system) - 18 Premiers Grands Crus Classés and 64 Grands Crus Classés. Again the Saint Émilion wine council says this is a result of improved consistency and quality across the appellation.
Over two hundred other Saint-Émilion wines carry the description "Grand Cru", however this designation is awarded under the basic appellation rules and is below the quality level of the 2012 classification. Nevertheless, the basic Grand Cru wines and indeed basic St Émillion, can still offer very good quality and value for money, especially in good years where excellent quality is found across the region. The classification system aims to categorise the very best wines produced in Saint Émilion.
The French government organisation INAO (Institut National des Appelations d'Origines )supervises this and other classification systems for wine and other agricultural products The INAO set up an independent process to try and ensure transparency and avoid accusations of favouritism or conflicts of interest. A jury of experts was set up to judge the wines via a series of tastings - they comprised of seven wine professionals, all members or former members of the INAO and all from outside the Bordeaux region. Chateaux were judged on their terroir, renown, methods of vineyard and cellar work and through a blind tasting of ten vintages (15 for Premier Grand Crus). To become Grand Cru Classé, chateaux had to score at least 14 out of 20, to become Premier Grand Cru Classé, at least 16 out of 20. Within Premier Grand Cru Classé is the sub-designation Premier Grand Cru Classé A and Premier Grand Cru Classé B.
Premiers Grands Crus Classés (A)
Grands Crus Classés