For the first time in 32 years a new Bordeaux chateau is to be elevated to First Growth status.

For the 150th anniversary of the 1855 classification the Union des Grands Crus Classes de Bordeaux will announce this month it has been examining three potential candidates to join the ranks of the First Growths.

According to sources close to senior members of the UGCC in Bordeaux, one château will be chosen from a shortlist of Second Growth châteaux.

Speculation is rife as to which of the properties are likely candidates for promotion. Most insiders privately agree that the winner is likely to be one of the so-called ‘Super Seconds’ – Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Leoville Las-Cases, and Palmer (a third growth, but considered a second growth by virtue of its price and quality).

Within that list, one senior Bordeaux commentator said, the winner ‘logically’ should come from either St Julien or St Estephe, neither of which has a first growth.

‘Cos and Montrose in St Estephe, and the three Leovilles, Gruaud Larose and Ducru Beaucaillou in St Julien, are the logical candidates, and they have been lobbying the UGCC for years for promotion to First Growth,’ he said.

decanter.com has learned that the decision as to which château is to be promoted will be made by a special central committee set up in early 2004. The jury – whose members’ names have not been released – consists of 12 highly placed Bordeaux proprietors and other senior members of the Bordeaux wine world.

The jury has carried out an exhaustive year-long programme of tastings and in-depth château visits. It is understood vintages tasted go back at least 30 years, up to 2002. The controversial 2003 vintage has not been included.

‘This has been one of the most exhilarating – and lengthy – tasting sessions of my life,’ one jury member told decanter.com. ‘The ramifications for whoever is chosen will be massive, so it goes without saying the decision is an important one.’

The news has sparked off rumours across the region as it prepares for the 2004 en primeur barrel tastings next week. Few of the chateaux involved were prepared to comment, although one proprietor said he did not expect to get much sleep as the date of the announcement approached.

‘Let’s just say we would be pleased to be promoted to the first rank,’ he said.

So far, only five châteaux hold the title of Premier Cru or First Growth; four of these – Haut-Brion, Lafite, Margaux and Latour – were so named in 1855. Mouton-Rothschild was added in 1973.

The list of chateaux has been narrowed down to a shortlist of three. The final decision will not be made until later this month, and will be announced at the Medoc Cru Classes Dinner to be held during Vinexpo in Bordeaux in June.

The current list of second-growths:

Château Brane-Cantenac

Château Cos d’Estournel

Château Ducru Beaucaillou

Château Gruaud-Larose

Château Lascombes

Château Léoville Barton

Château Léoville-Las-Cases

Château Léoville-Poyferré

Château Montrose

Château Pichon-Baron

Château Pichon-Lalande

Château Rausan-Ségla

Château Rauzan-Gassies

Château Durfort-Vivens

Château Palmer (officially third-growth but considered second-growth by virtue of price and quality)

Written by Oliver Styles, and Adam Lechmere