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Langton's Classification set at 101

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Langton's Classification of Australian Wine, which has recently been published in its fourth edition, has grown to be three times longer than the original 1991 version but will
be fixed at its present total of 101 wines, Langton's auctioneer Andrew Caillard MW has told Harpers.

Speaking at The Great Australian Highlights tasting in London on 7 October, organised with Wine Australia, Caillard said that 101 is a much better figure than 100' but explained that there was a need to impose a limit or the classification would lose its meaning'. He also admitted, apparently only half-jokingly, that it was as many as we can fit on the poster' (referrring to the

glossy pin-up issued with each new version).

Although the classification is based on bidding activity, price realisations and volume of wine sold', as recorded for the 60,000 lots sold through Langton's online auctions and exchanges, it is also limited by Langton's discretion'. Caillard revealed that the most difficult decisions related to those wines pushing for promotion or risking relegation - with only about half of the 70 or so contenders qualifying as Distinguished' (the lowest of the four categories, described as secondary-market staples or emerging classics sometimes undervalued by the market', now including 34 wines). He added that discretion was also exercised where it would better reflect the dynamics of the market - the strengthening and weakening of demand'.

While the ideal is to extrapolate on the evidence of the figures, in order to give an indication of overall wine auction market performance', he said that there was also a sense that certain classic styles should be represented: Barossa Shiraz [which figured much less prominently in the first classification] could easily sweep aside everything, including Coonawarra Cabernet.' At the same time, he accepted with regret that some very high-quality wines would never make the classification because there is not enough secondary-market activity for them - either because they lack longevity

(a condition that affects most whites) or because they have fallen out of fashion (like the great liqueur Muscats and Tokays). He singled out Yalumba's Virgilius Viognier as an outstanding wine that would always be excluded because it is best consumed young and stressed that, as a descendant of the founder of Chteau Reynella, whose Port' was one of the two fortified wines included in the first classification, he was not prejudiced against such styles.

While welcoming discussion as to whether the quality of the wines always lived up to their market performance and place in the classification (see Max Allen's column, Harpers, 23 September, p.10), he said that there was now less need than at the time of the first classification to be provocative for the sake of publicity. The next classification will be in 2010, by which time the proportion of non-Australian auction and exchange participants - already 10% and rising - will make

the classification even more representative of the market

for fine Australian wine.