The grand wine category is one of the best kinds of French wine you’ll ever find. Among French wine classifications, the grand wine category is usually described as “Cru” (a French word meaning growth). Other popular versions of this term are “Premier Crus” and “Cru Village” in reviews discussing grand wine classification.
What Is The Grand Wine Category?
For wine insiders and generations of wine drinkers, grand cru wines represent the best French wine available. You’ll rarely find these wines listed in the affordable wines category because many people want to buy them and are willing to pay top prices. Fortunately, these grand wine classification wines are available from multiple French wine regions like Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy. One way to taste these cool wines is to do the leg work yourself – visit French wine estates yourself. See my tips for Bordeaux wine enthusiasts for more tips on planning a wine trip.
How Grand Wine Different From The Average Wine Bottle?
The vast percentage of wines produced in France are affordable wines. Even a budget-friendly French wine category formerly known as “table wine.” There are a few reasons why the Premier Crus are different from average wine.
Reason 1: Exceptional Quality Wine
French wine producers, especially those focused on tiers of luxury wines, are committed to producing exceptional wines. Please don’t mistake assuming the well-regarded wine producers can coast on their reputation for a high-quality vineyard for long. A few bad reviews from a wine writer are all it takes to encourage wine drinkers to seek out decent wine elsewhere.
Reason 2: Wine Classification
France has had appellation laws for over one hundred years identifying the best producers. Some of these historic producers, like Château Margaux and Château Latour, have been recognized as top-quality vineyards since the 1850s. It is relatively difficult for a new vineyard from an obscure village to join the grand wine category (or become known as a grand vin de Bourgogne). Joining the French wine classification grand cru club is fairly difficult.
Reason 3: Wine Insiders
Since French wine has such a high-quality reputation, the country’s wine trade body is highly motivated to maintain high standards. It’s not enough to rely on the country’s robust wine law. As a result, there is relatively minimal interest in admitting lesser-known vineyards to the elite grand wine classification.
France may lead the premium wine category, but it is not the only country producing outstanding wine. Top premium wine producers in California, Italy, and other countries regularly receive top wine awards and charge accordingly high prices. That said, none of these regions have achieved yet the same appeal as the French wine classification grand cru.
Reason 4: Demand From Elite Wine Collectors
Vineyard classification only tells part of the start. Generations of wine drinkers, including many affluent people, have demanded the best wines. Asian consumers from Hong Kong and China have become interested in France’s best wines. As a result, generations of wine drinkers demand premium wines.
In addition to wine enthusiasts, investors are interested in wine as an investment. Holding a portfolio of wines may give the buyer diversification benefits. Holding a French wine portfolio makes sense since there is long-established demand for high-end French wine. Over time, I imagine that investors will look at other high-end wines from German wine estates and other wine regions to find bargains.
Affordable Wine Alternatives (No, Not A Box of Wine)
It’s fun to dream about buying and drinking premier crus. Alas, those wines often sell for thousands of dollars! It is just not realistic to spend that much money on wine for many of us. Instead, you can find your favorite grape variety once you learn a simple shortcut to read French wine labels. Once you understand two principles, you can easily have a great experience.
Tip 1: Use The Geographic Detail Principle
When reading French wine bottle labels, geographical detail often signifies quality. At the lower end of the spectrum, some boxed wine companies state “product of France.” In that case, you have no way of knowing where the grapes came from. While these wines are inexpensive, they are not very interesting to drinkers.
In contrast, a bottle of decent wine may state the wine region (e.g., Burgundy or Bourgogne in French), an appellation (i.e., a formally defined area that typically covers several vineyards). That is a good sign! Even better, the wine label may be so specific that you can find the French vineyard on a map.
Tip 2: Use Wine Quality Designations
France and the European Union have an array of wine laws. There are just two concepts that we need to know for our purposes. Wine bottles that are labeled with Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or AOC for short (an older style of French wine quality) or Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP) (the newer European Union designation of quality wine), celebrate! You have just found a bottle of wine that meets objective standards for quality.
With these two principles, you can find good bottles of wine at reasonable prices.
Grand Wine Category In Summary
Now that you know the meaning of the grand wine category, you’ll have a better chance to solve an advanced crossword, impress your friends and find high-quality wines. Don’t let the high prices of grand cru wines like Remy Grand Cru discourage you. Use the two tips above (the geographic detail tip and wine quality designations) to find excellent affordable wines that fit your budget.