The term “Grand Cru” is French for “great growth” refers to the biggest and most reputed wine of the Castle. It points out the parcel where grapes grow best.
This term has different meaning from wine region to another, as there are two categories:
“Grand Cru Classé” and “AOC Grand Cru”.
The Grand Cru Classé :
The first “Grand Cru” ranking was initiated at the demand of Napoleon III for the Universal Exhibition, which took place in Paris in 1855. He requested a classification system for Bordeaux wine that were to be on display for visitors. The Chamber of Wine Merchants of Bordeaux split red Cru of Médoc and Pessac-Leognan in 5 categories: 5 first, 15 second, 14 third, 10 fourth and 18 fifth “Crus Classés”(understand: ranked growth/ranked harvest); and separated whites of Sauternes and Barsac in 3 categories: 1 “Grand Cru Supérieur”, 11 Premiers Crus Classés and 15 Deuxièmes Crus Classés).
The AOC Grand Cru :
Much later, in 1935, the AOC* Grand Cru was created. It is the highest AOC appellation and guarantees the quality of the wine based on several criteria: strict limitations on terroir, highly restricted yields, specific rules of conduct regarding the vines, minimal natural ripeness levels and taste.
Every wine regions don’t have the possibility to use the “Grand Cru” Appellation which is highly controlled. Only a few can offer it, such as :
In Bourgogne : AOC Grand Cru is used for names of parcels or districts.
In Alsace: It is authorized for 52 names and only for Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris grapes.
In Languedoc-Roussillon: There’s only one, which is the Vin Doux Naturel. It is a red AOC Banyuls Grand Cru.
In Champagne: as for the “Premiers Crus Classés”, 100% of the grapes have to come from special “Grand Cru” parcels.
In Loire: the only one Grand Cru is the AOC Quarts-de-Chaume Grand Cru
In Bordeaux: only castles from St-Emilion can receive the appellation « Grand Cru » complete or not with the mention « Premier Grand Cru Classé » or « Grand Cru Classé » (which refere to the 1855 ranking). Bordeaux’ Grands Crus represent almost 61,5% of all the Grand Cru production.
So despite its complexity, we hope to have helped to make it a little bit easier to understand throughout this article.
And don’t be afraid of the price! Frist of all you can find very good affordable Grands Crus (we have some on our website). Sure if you’re looking for a very rare wine, be prepared, but remember it’s worth it!
* AOC : Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée which translates to Original Appellation Controlled