by Justin Taylor
When you are sitting around at hosts’ table and they start sharing facts about the next wine up for service, you might be met with excitement or anxiety over understanding what you are actually about to taste. In the ‘New’ world of wine, we have slightly simplified our terminology of wine directives, for example the iconic presence of Malbec in Argentina or Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The ‘Old’ world of wine however has a much longer perspective on this business, and to explain vines, wines, and style you almost need to speak another language!
One of my favorite label terms in French wine classification system is the word “Cru” (pronounced crew). Usually accompanied by the term “Grand” or “Premiere” it sounds nothing short of the finest of its kind, and probably expensive to top it off. But what does this classification mean to us as buyers and consumers? Who wrote the guidelines for those Grand bottles to end up in our hands?
As far back as 1098, Cistercian Monks who dedicated their time to cultivating grapes for sacramental wine in Burgundy began to notice singular areas in hundreds of acres of grapevines that produced wines of higher quality. These were soon coveted and blocked off, being noted for their potential to “grow” finer grapes than other areas. In French, the word cru means “growth” showing that the work of the monks through the Middle Ages was to define the areas of great, or grand, growth. After 920 years, we are left with a label indicating that the grapes used for the production of the wine under cork, were harvested from the section of vineyard that has stood the test of time. And by the way, they are usually the most sought after and expensive bottles in the market, so enjoy!
The Wine and Vine trivia for next issue: Are wines sealed with a screwcap, cheaper or more expensive than corked bottles?
Justin Taylor is Winemaker at Parker-Binns Vineyard, Mill Spring.