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An Analysis of Bordeaux Wine Ratings, 1970-2005: Implications for the Existing Classification of the Médoc and Graves

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Vol 8 No 11
By: Gary M. Thompson Ph.D., Stephen A. Mutkoski Ph.D., Youngran Bae, Liliana Ielacqua, and Se Bum Oh

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Executive Summary:

The French châteaux producing Bordeaux wines were classified in 1855, creating a taxonomy that continues in force to the present day. An analysis of the ratings of vintages from 1970 to 2005 from three popular rating sources—Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and Wine Spectator—provides a lens into the status of that 1855 Classification, as well as allows a comparison of those three raters. The analysis found considerable internal consistency in the three rating sources and a high degree of correlation between those experts’ ratings. However, the raters differ systematically in the scores they assign. This study is based on 339 combinations of château and vintage for the “classified growths” for which we were able to find ratings from all three sources. We identify the top-rated years and top-rated châteaux, and compare this information to the 1855 Classification. Given our findings we propose an update to the 1855 Classification that incorporates the ratings we examine. To begin with, several châteaux showed remarkable staying power over the intervening 150 years. However, some châteaux had advanced to in the rankings, while others have faded, at least based on this sample of vintages. Notable changes include Château Leoville-Las-Cases (Saint-Julien) moving from second to first growth, replacing Château Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac), and two châteaux moving from the fifth growth to the second growth: Château Lynch-Bages (Pauillac) and Château Pontet-Canet (Pauillac). Market prices of the 2005 vintage tend to support our findings. For example, as of early May 2008, the price of the Château Leoville-Las-Cases (Saint-Julien) was about three times that of the other nominally second-growth wines. While we believe it is unlikely that the classification will be changed, we believe that our proposed classification update (and our rank-ordering of the châteaux) can help guide wine purchase decisions of consumers and the restaurant industry.

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