What is a Second Growth wine? More than 150 years ago, in 1855, Napoleon III ordered the classification of top red wine Chateaux from Bordeaux for the Paris Universal Exhibit. 60 from Medoc where selected as First Growth or Premier Cru plus one from Graves, Chateau Haut-Brion. The selection was based solely on the price of the wines and it was NEVER to be changed. They were ranked in 5 categories: Premier Cru (first growth), Deuxieme Cru (secondary growth), etc until Cinqueme Cru or Fifth Growth. CRU=wine estate, vineyard or chateau. So the Premier Cru are super expensive, the Deuxieme Cru are very expensive, Trexieme Cru are expensive etc. As you can tell, great wines of Bordeaux are out of limits for most of us, the “new to wine”crowd. I mean, a bottle can cost $2,000 plus. So, what should we do? We have to look for secondary wines from those chateaux or second labels, of course!
What is a Second or Third label? These are wines made by the Premier Cru Chateaux but from grapes that did not make it to their finest lots or are from grape plants that are too young. They are made by the same winemaker, in the same way as their Premier Cru wines. They have their own labels but are usually not promoted. In order to find out about them, you have to read wine reviews in order to learn about great deals. When Second labels become expensive, we then try to find Third labels. A few of the best that I got to taste in Bordeaux or that I read about are:
- La Croix de Beaucaillou (Chateau Ducru-beaucaillou)
- Les Pagodes de Cos (Chateau Cos d’Estournel)
- Reserve de la Comtesse (Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande)
- Chateau Moulin Riche (Chateau Leoville-Poyfere)
- Amiral de Beychevelle (Chateau Beychevelle)
- La Chapelle de la Mision (Chateau La Mission)
- Alter Ego (Chateau Palmer)
- Margaux de Margaux (4th label! because the 2nd one was so super expensive!)
Most second wines come from the left bank but the right bank also has some interesting ones:
- Pensees de Lafleur (Chateau La Fleur)
- Petit Eglise (Chateau Eglise de Chinet)
- Le Petit Cheval (Chateau Cheval Blanc)
There are many more. Keep in mind that these wines are not to buy and cellar for years (not that we would do that, new to wine people like to drink wine right away jaja). So, to get the good deals, read about the chateau’s harvests, make sure the Chateau does separate grapes for their premium and second wines in an even percentage, do not pay too much for them and be prepared to drink young. Happy Hunting!
P.S. Another way to drink top Bordeaux wines is to buy Cru Borgeois du Medoc. These are 250 chateaux that are not classified. A new list is published each year. They are very well priced.