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French mint issues 1855 coins

The Paris Mint is issuing a series of commemorative silver medals to celebrate this year’s 150th anniversary of the 1855 classification of Médoc & Sauternes Grands Crus Classés.

The idea for the commemorative series came from the Mint’s coin factory in Pessac, just outside Bordeaux, where France’s euro coins are struck.

The Mint launched an international competition in 2004 to find a designer for the medals. The selection panel, chaired by René Renou of the INAO, was made up of leading figures in the French wine sector including journalist Michel Bettane (formerly of the Revue du Vin de France) and numerous Bordeaux producers and négociants, such as Jean-Michel Cazes, Denis Dubourdieu and Michel Rolland.

The panel finally chose Magdalena Dubrocka, a Polish designer from Warsaw specialising in coin design.

The solid silver coins, which will cost about €40 each – about the same as a bottle of mid-priced Grand Cru wine – are 41mm in diameter and weigh 30g.

Every medal will feature Dubrocka’s design on one side. The design on the other side is chosen by the château: all 86 members of the Classification are eligible to feature on the coins. In many cases chateaux have opted for an image similar to their label – Calon-Ségur’s famous heart, for example.

The Mint hopes that Bordeaux châteaux featured in the 1855 classification will order the medals as gifts for their clients. Twenty châteaux so far have ordered medals, including some of the region’s most prestigious producers, such as Margaux, Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild, Montrose, Calon-Ségur and Climens.

The 1855 classification was ordered by the Emperor Napoleon III to showcase Bordeaux’s greatest wines at the Paris Exhibition of the same year. Apart from Château Haut-Brion (in Graves), all the wines chosen were from the Médoc and Sauternes. There are 61 red and 25 sweet white Grands Crus Classés.

Written by Rupert Joy

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