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The ‘form guide’ to fine Australian wine

Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine is the obvious starting point for anyone with an interest in fine wine but little knowledge of what Australia has to offer.

By Adrian Read


'The Langton’s Classification is the standard reference for the top Australian wines...'
Tony Keys, The Key Report (Sept. 2016).

‘Langton’s Classification [of Australian Wine] may not be as well known as Bordeaux's 1855 Classification, but it is an excellent barometer of how the Australian fine wine market is developing.’
Decanter (UK, 25 March 2016).

It’s probably inevitable that Langton’s Classification will be compared with the most famous wine classification of them all, but Langton’s is equable given the distinguished company and the implication that its Classification must be taken seriously.

Indeed, after 30 years and six editions (the seventh will be released in September this year), Langton’s can fairly claim that its Classification is universally accepted as the leading independent ranking of Australian (or any New World) wine, and arguably the leading wine classification outside those of Bordeaux.

The 1855 Bordeaux Classification may have had a few tweaks, but it has barely changed since it was first compiled 160+ years ago.

Langton’s Classification, on the other hand, has been revised every four years so as to reflect the dynamics of a constantly changing and developing market. As Decanter says: ‘It is a much more fluid ranking of Australia’s “best-performing” fine wines…’

2018 is also a Classification year! In September, we will release the 7th edition of the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine — the foremost form guide to the best performing wines in the Australian market and the preeminent wine classification of ‘new world’ wines.

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The keys to understanding – and using – the Langton’s Classification are…

Wines are eligible for inclusion based on their performance and track record on the secondary (auction) market over a minimum of 10 vintages.

As a result of regular revisions, wines can join, leave (and rejoin) the Classification. They may also be promoted or demoted within it.

What made it possible for Langton’s to originate the Classification was its auction records, dating back to 1988 and building strongly through the 1990s as the company successfully established itself as Australia’s leading specialist wine auction house.

It is the operation of a free and open market that determines the make-up of the Classification, not the opinions of individuals. Sentiment plays a part, but it is the sentiment of bidders willing to put their money where their feelings are.

Likewise, the perception of wine quality is not a matter of subjective opinion, but a reflection of market forces.

The current Classification VI was released in 2014 and includes 139 wines in three categories – ‘Exceptional’ (21 wines), ‘Outstanding’ (53) and ‘Excellent’ (65).


- Shiraz (with Shiraz-Viognier blends) is the leading ‘Classified’ variety, with 60 entries, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (and blends) with 38.

- Leading regions (all in South Australia) are the Barossa, with 30 Classified wines, Coonawarra with 15 and the Clare Valley with 12.

- Margaret River has 10 Classified wines, the Yarra Valley and McLaren Vale eight each and the Hunter Valley seven.

- Varietal (single-variety) wines outnumber blends by 110 to 29.

- There are 11 Classified Pinot Noirs, eight Chardonnays, six Rieslings, three Rhône-style blends, four fortifieds and one sparkling wine.

- Australia’s leading producers of Classified wines are Penfolds, with 10, Wendouree with five and Henschke with four.

- An important trend is the emergence of single-site, cool-climate Classified wines alongside more traditional, warm-climate, multi-vineyard and multi-regional wines.

 

The richness and variety of today’s Classification is a far cry from the inaugural 1990 Classification, which included just 34 wines and was published with the aim of strengthening the then fledgling wine auction market.

It’s easy to see how the Classification has reflected and documented the increasing maturity and sophistication of Australia’s fine wine market. In 2018 it is the obvious starting point for anyone with an interest in fine wine but little knowledge of what Australia has to offer.

The Classification captures market sentiment on a regular, moving basis. It does not claim to be absolute or definitive; the market is always in flux. The authority of the Classification derives from its independence; the criteria for inclusion are objective and market-driven.

Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine is a market barometer or, to use a horse-racing analogy, a form guide. But unlike the Bordeaux 1855 Classification it does not entrench an order of things.

As a result, the world over, enthusiasts and collectors, buyers and sellers, use it as a working reference, a practical guide, to Australia’s most revered and desirable wines.



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