Bordeaux, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Aquitaine was once populated by Romans, and for 300 years was also occupied by the British, who have continued to worship its wines ever since.
The wine producing history of Bordeaux spans centuries but in earnest began with the alliance of England and France in the twelfth Century through the marriage of Alienor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet, who later became King of England. This alliance established an instant market for wines of Aquitaine, and also established the city of Bordeaux as a major trading port.
Bordeaux was under English rule for over three hundred years and by the fourteenth century, most of the wines exported from Bordeaux were to the British Isles.
During the political upheavals and Anglo-French wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Bordeaux wines kept the smuggling fraternities busy. German, Irish and Dutch merchants came to Bordeaux and introduced trade with other maritime powers of Northern Europe and the Americas. This brought substantial wealth to the region. Between them they developed a lucrative and organised three-way trade that survived the revolution of 1789.
In 1855 Napoleon III introduced what is known today simply as ‘The Classification’, putting all the wines into a classification system on the grounds of quality. These ranks are known as ‘Growths’, with the 1st Growth (Premier Grand Cru Classe;) being the highest honour and 5th Growth the lowest. The ‘Classification’ is still being upheld today by ‘The Appellation Controlée’ laws and supported by the EC regulations.