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Wine Classification FAQ

France: Vin de Table, Vin de Pays, Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure (VDQG), and Appellation d’Orgine Contrôlée (AOC/AC).

Italy: Vino da Tavola, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT), Denomiazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), and Denomiazione de Origine Controllata e Garnatita (DOCG).

Spain: Vino de Mesa, Vino de la Tierra, Denominacion de Origen (DO), and Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa).

Portugal: Vinho de mesa, Vinho Regional, Indicaçâo de Proveniencia Regulamentada (IPR), and Denominaçâo de Origem Controlada (DOC).

Germany: Deutscher Tafelwein, Deutscher Landwein, Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA), Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP), Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein, and Trockenbeeren-auslese.

Classifications like these are a way of grading vineyards or properties in terms of quality. Terms such as “Grand Cru” mean different things depending on which region the wine comes from. The information on labels can give you clues to what the wine will taste like, in addition to the alcohol content, vintage, name of the vineyard or grape variety.

In 1855, Napoleon III, emperor of France, decided to throw a Universal Exposition in Paris, a kind of world’s fair, and wanted all of the country’s wines represented. He invited Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce to arrange an exhibit. They agreed, according to their records, to present “all our crus classes, up to fifth growths,” but asked an organization of wine merchants, the Syndicat of Courtiers, to draw up “an exact and complete list of all the red wines of the Gironde that specifies in which class they belong.” The courtiers turned in the list two weeks later. It included fifty-eight chateaux: twelve seconds, fourteen thirds, eleven fourths and seventeen fifths. Reaction to the classification was heated. The courtiers’ original list ranked the chateaux by quality within each class. Because of this ranking, controversy arose, so the courtiers rearranged the list of each class into alphabetical order. Since 1855, many changes have occurred in the chateaux’s names, owners, vineyards, and the wine quality, and because of the division in the original estates, there are now sixty-one chateaux on the list.