The French term means "great plant", usually refers to wine (but also to other foods such as beer, coffee and chocolate) and is closely related to the French philosophy of the terroir. This means that regardless of the possible variations in quality between individual vintages, a certain type of soil and the climate there (microclimate) are of constant and determining quality. The Cru Classés are to be understood in addition to the Appellation d'Origine Protégée, which is valid in France, and characterize the top qualities. However, the term has a different meaning in the individual wine-growing regions. It can refer to a site, a municipality or a château (winery) or to the wine produced there. In Bordeaux, the interests of the Grands Crus vineyards are represented by the UGCB (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux).
Beaujolais: There are ten municipalities with cru status. In contrast to the four-level model in the rest of Burgundy, there are only three levels (no Grands Crus).
BordeauxHere Grand Cru is used for the characteristic of a vineyard (Château), or the Grand Vin produced here (does not apply to a second wine). The vineyard and the château are equated with each other, so to speak. The rules are very different and confusing in the appellations. Famous is the Bordeaux classification in 1855, which still has a certain significance today.
BurgundyGrand Cru (as opposed to Bordeaux) is the name of a vineyard, based on an official classification of all vineyards of the Côte d'Or in 1935. All Grand Crus are classified as a separate appellation. The second highest level, Premier Cru, however, is only part of a municipal appellation. The quality pyramid with all municipalities, sites and vineyards is described under Burgundy Classification.
Chablis: There are seven particularly privileged sites that form the highest ranked Grand Cru class in the Burgundy classification.
ChampagneHere, individual communes are classified according to the quality of the grapes as Grand Cru, Premier Cru or a "nameless" third level; see in detail under Échelle des crus. These are not appellations (AOC/AOP) in terms of wine law.
Alsace: Here the 51 layers are classified in the AC Alsace Grand Cru.
GravesHere, in 1953 and 1959, a classification for red and white wines was made with the single stage Cru Classé des Graves. The châteaux in question are all located in the Pessac-Léognan appellation, the northern part of Graves.
LanguedocA three-level quality system was introduced in 2011 with the Languedoc AOC, Grands Vins du Languedoc and Crus du Languedoc levels. However, this grouping has purely marketing reasons; all Languedoc appellations have been assigned to the two higher groups depending on quality.
MédocThe famous Bordeaux Classification of 1855 established a five-tier system from Premier Cru to Cinquième Cru, with Château Haut-Brion (Graves) being the only estate outside the Médoc. The 61 estates are known as Grands Crus Classés.
PomerolSurprisingly, there is no classification system in this outstanding appellation, which can stand comparison with the best in Bordeaux.
RhôneThere are 16 appellations that can call themselves cru, which makes them top appellations (but there is no further gradation, as for example in Burgundy). In a broader sense, they belong to the appellation Côtes du Rhône, therefore the label shows "Cru des Côtes du Rhône" in addition to the appellation.
Saint-ÉmilionIn 1955, a classification for wines or wineries was introduced here, which is regularly updated. There are four quality levels: Premier Grand Cru Classé A, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru.
Sauternes: There is no class called Grand Cru. The three levels established in 1855 are Premier Cru Classé Supérieur (the only Château d'Yquem estate), Premieur Cru Classé and Deuxième Cru Classé.
The term Grand Cru, or analogous names for sites and/or wines, is also used outside France:
GermanyHere, according to the VDP classification model, which has been changed/extended from the 2012 vintage onwards, the sites and wines are classified in descending order: Great site (wine = Grosses Gewächs), first site, local wine and estate wine. See also Prussian vineyard site classification regarding history.
ItalyHere, special areas within a DOC/DOCG zone are called Vigna, with mostly even stricter wine regulations regarding alcohol content. The label shows Vigna plus the name of the vineyard. In Piedmont, the terms Bricco or Sori, among others, are used for special sites. The term Colli (hill), which is used in many DOC names, indicates an exposed hillside location with a steep incline.
AustriaAlthough there is traditionally a distinct vineyard culture here, there is no official classification system. Individual groups such as the Styrian Terroir and Classic Wine Estates, Traditional Wine Estates Austria and WienWein are trying to do so. The DAC designation of origin introduced in 2002 corresponds to the French appellation.
SwitzerlandHere Grand Cru is the highest classification level of sites. The standards per region depend on the grape varieties and terroir. Grands Crus can be found in the regions of Vaud with for example Calamin and Dézaley; as well as German-speaking Switzerland, Valais and Ticino.
SpainHere, the term Vino de Pago was introduced in 2003 for special locations.
New WorldHere the situation does not usually play a significant role. In some US states, however, a location culture is emerging. See also under Generic.
On the subject of wine quality, see also origin, classification and above all quality system. A comprehensive list of all area designations can be found under the keyword vineyard area. All necessary tools as well as work and measures in the vineyard during the vegetation cycle can be found under the keyword vineyard care. Complete lists of the numerous cellar techniques, as well as a list of the wine, sparkling wine and distillate types regulated by wine law can be found under vinification. Comprehensive wine law information can be found under the keyword wine law.