Definition - What does Cru mean?

Cru is a French wine term that means “Growth”. It appears on wine labels and can denote many things, depending on where the wine was made. In the simplest terms, Cru is a status term, indicating that the winery, vineyard or estate has met specific qualifications to use that term. When “Classé” follows the term, it means that the vineyard is classified and is part of the Classed Growth designations.

There are two ways to interpret “cru”:

  1. It refers to a vineyard/group of vineyards with the same soil/characteristics.
  2. It refers to a wine produced by those vineyards; if “Cru” appears, then the wine in the bottle should display the qualities and characteristics of that Cru.

WineFrog explains Cru

The term “Cru” first appeared in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. The classification divided the red and white wines of Medoc and Graves into five tiers based on price point. Since then, other regions, such as Burgundy, Sauternes, Saint-Émilion and more have adopted their own version of this term. Which is why consumers have to be careful when interpreting “Cru” on a wine label. It has very different meanings depending on the region from which the wine originates. For example, a Bordeaux “Premier Cru” is given to an estate based on the price point of their wines over several decades (Premier being the highest price point); a Premier Grand Cru from Saint-Émilion is given to an estate that consistently produces high quality wines; and a Cru Artisan designation is given to family-run estates that cultivate their own grapes and make, market and sell their wines themselves.

The main thing to remember when considering a cru wine is that the term, in a general sense, incorporates the terroir. Two different Cru wines made from the same grape by the same producer should present the same terroir characteristics.

As of 2015, “Cru” is only officially used in France, though producers in the New World – Canada, USA, AUSTRALIA and more – have used the term. The English version of “Preimer Cru” – First Growth – is on the labels of Reif Estate Winery’s specialty wines and, in 2015, One Faith Vineyard announced their first vintage as a “First Growth from the Okanagan Valley”. The term isn’t regulated outside of France, so before you pick the “Grand Cru” red, make sure you know whether that means the wine has a high price point, is high quality, comes from an artisan background or is just a marketing twist.