Your guide to the Saint-Emilion classification

Bordeaux’s Right Bank wasn’t classified in 1855, but Saint-Emilion introduced its equivalent system in 1955, ranking the appellation’s best properties. Here’s everything you need to know about the Saint-Emilion classification, how properties are ranked – and why it’s so controversial
Your guide to the Saint-Emilion classification

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While Bordeaux’s Left Bank was classified in 1855, the Right Bank didn’t establish an equivalent ranking until the 1950s. There are classifications for the Graves, Sauternes and Barsac, as well as the Médoc across the Gironde, but it is only Saint-Emilion that has been classified on the Right.

How does Saint-Emilion’s classification work? 

The classification was first established in 1955, dividing the appellation’s properties into three levels of quality based on a scoring system. The top wines are classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé A, followed by those that are Premier Grand Cru Classé B and then the Grand Cru Classé. 

From the beginning, the idea was to try and create a more democratic system that rewarded estates’ efforts and avoided complacency. While the 1855 Classification was assigned to the château – essentially the brand, rather than the wine or specific vineyards (meaning properties could expand and shrink, yet their status wouldn’t change), the Saint-Emilion classification is judged both on terroir and the château’s performance. The classification is also reassessed every 10-15 years, with the most recent update in 2022.

How are properties in Saint-Emilion classified? 

As mentioned, the ranking of estates is based on a scoring system, out of 20. 

For the Premiers Grands Crus Classés, the score is based on: a tasting of 15 vintages (representing 30% of the score); the property’s national and international reputation, its promotion and distribution (35%); the quality and consistency of the terroir (30%); and the property’s approach to viticulture, vinification and traceability (5%). To sit within this bracket, estates must earn 16 out of 20, with the best earning Premier Grand Cru Classé A status. 

For the Grands Crus Classés, the score is based on: a tasting of 10 vintages (representing 50% of the score); the property’s national and international reputation, its promotion and distribution (20%); the quality and consistency of the terroir (20%); and the property’s approach to viticulture, vinification and traceability (10%). In essence, there is more focus on the tasting and the property’s practices, and less on terroir or its reputation and representation in the market. To achieve Grand Cru Classé status, a property must earn 14 out of the possible 20 points. 

Because there is a detailed assessment of the soils, properties can have some but not all of their land classified. For example, Ch. Angélus had only 27 of its 39 hectares deemed worthy of Premier Grand Cru Classé A and Ch. Canon only has 24 of its 34 hectares classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé B.

Why is Saint-Emilion’s classification controversial? 

While the intention to try and create a classification system that was both dynamic and about the land was noble, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. There is much debate about the different factors that contribute to a property’s score, with the proportion tied to distribution and marketing a particular point of contention. With its constant evolution, this gives more room for controversy – with anyone demoted inevitably disgruntled. All in all, the result is a legal battleground, with accusations of undue influence and more.  

The initial classification took three years to finalise, and it has since been re-drawn in 1969, 1986, 1996, 2006, 2012 and 2022. After the 2006 classification, five estates filed lawsuits against their demotion, while the 2012 only brought more cases to the courts.  

Ahead of the 2022 classification, most of the Premier Grand Cru Classé A estates left the classification (Ch. Ausone, Ch. Angélus and Ch. Cheval Blanc), leaving just Ch. Pavie in the top rank of the classification, joined by Ch. Figeac in 2022. Read more about the classification’s recent controversies here.

What about Saint-Emilion Grand Cru?

Saint-Emilion Grand Cru is – confusingly – very different to Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé. This isn’t a classification but an appellation – one that has the exact same geographic area as Saint-Emilion AC. 

Properties need to apply to be part of the classification but can otherwise make wine under the area’s two appellations – Saint-Emilion AC or Saint-Emilion Grand Cru AC.  

“Grand Cru” status is not tied to the quality of the terroir but dictated by yields (a lower maximum of 40hl/ha), a higher minimum potential alcohol and longer minimum ageing requirements (only permitted to be bottled 16 months after harvest), and must be estate-bottled. The idea is that this leads to a higher-quality, richer wine.

The current Saint-Emilion classification

The latest iteration of the Saint-Emilion classification was announced in 2022, with just two properties sitting at Premier Grand Cru Classé A level and 12 at Premier Grand Cru Classé B, and 63 Grands Crus Classés. Find the full list of estates below.

Premier Grand Cru Classé A

Ch. Pavie  

Ch. Figeac  

Premier Grand Cru Classé B  

Ch. Beau-Séjour Bécot 

Ch. Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse 

Ch. Bélair-Monange 

Ch. Canon 

Ch. Canon-la-Gaffelière 

Ch. Larcis Ducasse 

Ch. Pavie Macquin 

Ch. Troplong Mondot 

Ch. TrotteVieille 

Ch. Valandraud

Clos Fourtet 

La Mondotte 

Grand Cru Classé

Ch. l’Arrosée  

Ch. Balestard la Tonnelle 

Ch. Barde-Haut 

Ch. Bellefont-Belcier 

Ch. Bellevue 

Ch. Berliquet 

Ch. Cadet-Bon 

Ch. Cap de Mourlin 

Ch. le Chatelet 

Ch. Chauvin 

Ch. Clos de Sarpe 

Ch. la Clotte 

Ch. la Commanderie 

Ch. Corbin 

Ch. Côte de Baleau 

Ch. la Couspaude 

Ch. Dassault 

Ch. Destieux 

Ch. la Dominique 

Ch. Faugères 

Ch. Faurie de Souchard 

Ch. de Ferrand 

Ch. Fleur Cardinale 

Ch. La Fleur Morange Mathilde 

Ch. Fombrauge 

Ch. Fonplégade 

Ch. Fonroque 

Ch. Franc Mayne 

Ch. Grand Corbin 

Ch. Grand Corbin-Despagne 

Ch. Grand Mayne 

Ch. les Grandes Murailles 

Ch. Grand-Pontet 

Ch. Guadet 

Ch. Haut Sarpe 

Clos des Jacobins 

Couvent des Jacobins 

Ch. Jean Faure 

Ch. Laniote 

Ch. Larmande 

Ch. Laroque 

Ch. Laroze Clos la Madeleine  

Ch. la Marzelle 

Ch. Monbousquet 

Ch. Moulin du Cadet 

Clos de l’Oratoire 

Ch. Pavie Decesse 

Ch. Peby Faugères 

Ch. Petit Faurie de Soutard 

Ch. de Pressac 

Ch. le Prieuré 

Ch. Quinault l’Enclos 

Ch. Ripeau 

Ch. Rochebelle 

Ch. Saint-Georges-Cote-Pavie 

Clos Saint-Martin 

Ch. Sansonnet 

Ch. la Serre 

Ch. Soutard 

Ch. Tertre Daugay 

Ch. la Tour Figeac 

Ch. Villemaurine 

Ch. Yon-Figeac


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Sophie Thorpe
Sophie Thorpe
Sophie Thorpe joined FINE+RARE in 2020. An MW student, she’s been short-listed for the Louis Roederer Emerging Wine Writer Award twice, featured on and won the 2021 Guild of Food Writers Drinks Writing Award.