The First Growths of France were created in 1855. The five wines (Premier Gran Cru) in this prestigious grouping are, in no particular order, Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Lafitte- Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau LaTour. These are the names you hear bandied about in movies where a couple sits at a table in a fancy restaurant and the man perusing the wine list announces to the sommelier, “we’ll have the 82 Margaux, no, make that the 59 Mouton Rothschild.” Here is how those wines were chosen for that list that represents the epitome of French wine making: In 1855 wine brokers were asked to create a classification of the wines of Bordeaux. They didn’t sit around a table and taste all of the wines from that region. They simply based the classification on how much wines were selling for at that time and the wines from the Medoc area of France were drawing top francs and therefore headed the list. The one exception being Chateau Haut-Brion which is produced in Graves. Mouton Rothschild did not make that First Growth Classification initially but decades of lobbying for inclusion by Baron Phillipe Rothschild who owned Mouton were successful in 1973 when Mouton made the big five.
Are they the best in the world? As with all wine opinions the answer is subjective. It depends on many things; the vintage, whether you like that style of wine, your mood at the time of tasting, so many variables. I have had two of the first growths, they were very good, they were not the best wines I have ever had.
America’s Napa Valley has no such grading of wines. There are no American first growths. However, a European wine magazine, Fine Wine, which for the first time is now being sold here in the USA, has now come out with their list of Napa First Growths. The list has produced a lot of debate on the wine forums as any list of “the best” will do. I present that list here to give you an idea of which wines are often referred to as “the best the America has to offer”.
Fine Wine Magazine named the following six wines as American First Growths:
COLGIN CABERNET, HERB LAMB VINEYARD
ARAUJO CABERNET SAUVIGNON
HEITZ, MARTHA’S VINEYARD
The article and their selection process can be found on this site. Pages 52-53 list the selections.
It makes for interesting conversation but, as usual, the debate is destined to rage on forever because the only truly great wines of the world are the ones YOU think are the best. Start sampling some today!!