What is a cru ? What is the difference between a « Champagne Premier Cru » and a « Champagne Grand Cru » ? Envie de Champ Mag helps you to understand this concept which is mentioned on each bottle of champagne. In Champagne, the concept of « Cru » applies to a group of villages (Communes), unlike the region of Bordeaux, where a « cru » is limited to a terroir, a castle, or the region of Bourgogne where it applies to a village (Volnay, Pommard, Nuits-Saint-Georges…). In Champagne, the cru is a guarantee of quality, sourced from the best terroirs of the appellation, depending on the sun exposure, the soil on which the vine is planted and the finale quality of the grapes. The communes are classified in 3 categories ranking from 100% to 80% according to the quality of the grapes (not the quality of champagne).
Today, among the 300 wine-growing communes from the Champagne region, there are several appellations: regional and sub-regional, departmental, zonal, communal, Premier Cru and Grand-Cru. 17 of them are classified as Grand-Cru (100% listed), and 44% of them are
classified Premier-Cru and listed between 99% and 90%. The communes (group of villages) that are listed below this level are « non-classified », up to 80% on the scale and constitute 21,000 hectares of the Champagne vineyard and have less strict specifications than the two previous Crus. This scale allows to establish the trader’s selling price per kilo of grape. If the grape is 100% « Grand Cru », the buyer pays 100% of the price, etc… In the past, this ranking rised up to 60%.
Sometimes, it’s easier to read the dictionary definition in order to understand. In the « Dictionnaire Hachette du vin » (Hachette wine’s distionary) from the wine critic Michel Dovaz a « cru » is a word which designate a specific vineyard, a terroir or a region of
production, the wine or the eau-de-vie which is sourced from it.
Grands Crus reprensent 14% (4000 hectares) of vineyard among the 34300 hectares of the appelation since 1927. They dominate the ranking hierarchy. Ambonnay, Avize, Ay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Chouilly, Cramant, Louvois, Mailly- Champagne, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Oiry, Puisieulx, Sillery, Tours-sur-Marne, Verzenay, Verzy are the 17 communes which are classified Grand-Cru. 11 of them are located in the Montagne de Reims, and the remaining 6 communes are located on the Côte des Blancs. The mention of « Grand Cru » on the bottle’s label is a guarantee of the origine of grape in the elaboration of champagne, from one of this 17 villages 100% classified.
Premiers Crus, just under the Grands Crus, offers gorgeous champagnes which are highly appreciated. They represent 5000 hectares of vineyard (approximately 17,6% of the entire appellation).
Avenay, Bergères-les-Vertus, Bezannes, Billy le Grand, Bisseuil, Chamery, Champillon, Chigny les Roses, Chouilly (PN), Coligny (CH), Cormontreuil, Coulommes la Montagne, Cuis, Cumières, Dizy, Ecueil, Etrechy (CH), Grauves, Hautvillers, Jouy les Reims, Les Mesneus, Ludes, Mareuil sur Aÿ, Montbré, Mutigny, Pargny les Reims, Pierry, Rilly la Montagne, Sacy, Sermiers, Taissy, Tauxières, Tours-sur-Marne (CH), Trépail, Trois Puits, Vaudemanges, Vertus, Villedommange, Villeneuve Renneville, Villers Allerand, Villers aux
Noeuds, Villers Marmery, Voipreux, Vrigny are the 44 communes which are located in the Montagne de Reims, the Côte des Blancs and around the city of Epernay.
The mention « Premier Cru » printed on labels is therefore a guarantee of the origin of the grapes from one of these 44 villages which are classified from 90 to 99%.
This mention is widely used by many winegrowers who have only a part of their land in a classifed Grand-Cru or Premier Cru village. They represent the majority of the vineyard, around 68.4% of the total area of Champagne appellation.