“In medio aquae”, in the middle of water: the Médoc is a peninsula in northern Gascony. Even though the meaning of the name may not be perfect, you should know that this strip of land which stretches from the north of Bordeaux to the Verdon was in the old days covered with unsanitary marshland.
King Henri IV called for Dutch engineers to drain all the wetlands with the purpose of creating jobs and food for the local population. Once the parcels got drained the notables of the city of Bordeaux realized that the gravel ridges were quite similar to the Grave which is the cradle of the Girondine wine-growing region. They bought land and built big and beautiful domains and the new proprietors often bore British-sounding names.
The grape quality was improving but trading started to become a problem. Napoleon III asked the President of the Commerce and Industry Chamber of Bordeaux for a classification of wines to put things right. After several drafts, the classification was formalised during the World Exhibition of 1855 and has remained the same since then, except for the castle Mouton Rothschild which entered into the first 5 “first” in 1973.