A cru is a top-quality white, red or rosé wine with a protected designation of origin (AOP). The term refers to specific terroirs among France's most prestigious vineyards. The classification of crus (grand cru, premier cru, etc.) depends on the region.

Oenology: what is a "cru"?

A cru is fisrt and foremost an AOP wine. To understand the definition of a “cru”, we need to take a moment to look at the classification of the main categories of French wine:

  • wines without geographical indication, or VSIG, also known as “vins de France”,
  • wines with geographical indication, or GI, whose provenance is clearly identified and whose quality is superior to that of VSIG.
There are two types of wine in the GI category:
  • Wines with protected indication of origin, or PGI,which refer to a precise geographical area and whose grape varieties are part of a list defined for each region (PGI Pays d'Hérault, PGI Méditerranée, etc.).
  • Wines with protected designation of origin, or AOP (formerly AOC),, which are subject to stricter specifications and quality controls than PGI wines. The terroirs in which they are produced are even rarer, but also more restricted, and correspond to the most renowned vineyard plots in France..
The classification of wines is therefore dominated by AOP wines, i.e. wines of excellence: these are known as “cru” wines.. This category in turn benefits from a The prestige of the terroir is central here, and the name of a cru refers to the commune, the locality or the estate where the wine is produced.

What's the difference between a grand cru and a premier cru?

Grands Crus are the rarest and most prestigious of the PDO wines. They represent 1.5% of French wine production. Next come the Premier Crus, also renowned for their very high quality, found in two of France's wine-growing regions (see table below).

Wines Region of origin
Grands crus Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace
Premiers crus Champagne, Burgundy

Wines Grands crus
Region of origin Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace

Wines Premiers crus
Region of origin Champagne, Burgundy

That said, the classification of crus is actually more complex: it's specific to each wine-growing region.

Classification of crus by region of France

Burgundy and Champagne

The classification of the crus of Burgundy and that of the great sparkling wines of Champagne remain classic: they are based on the classification of communes as premier or grand cru.. There are two categories:

  • premiers crus, 100% of which must come from a commune classified as a premier cru,
  • Grands Crus, 100% of which must come from a commune classified as a Grand Cru.


Only the “grand cru” appellation is found in Alsace,, referring to 51 lieux-dits. The list of authorized grape varieties is succinct (Pinot gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Muscat), but nearly 1,000 producers and estates are listed as « grand cru ».


Bordeaux wines benefit from a specific classification created for the 1855 Universal Exhibition at Napoleon's request. The 1855 Classification des Crus is thus the oldest known classification, with a cru referring to a château. At the top of this classification are the first grands crus classified:

  • Château Margaux,
  • Château Lafite-Rothschild,
  • Château Mouton-Rothschild,
  • Château Latour,
  • Château Haut-Brion.
Other classifications subsequently appeared in the Bordeaux region, such as the following:
  • crus bourgeois du Médoc in 1932,
  • Saint-Émilion in 1955,
  • Graves in 1959,
  • crus from Médoc artisans in 1989.


The classification of Provence's crus dates back to 1955 and gives rise to the “cru classé” appellation, granted to the production of 18 wineries.


The Languedoc-Roussillon crus, known as « estate wines », are grouped into 7 appellations:

  • Minervois La Livinière,
  • Pic Saint-Loup,
  • Faugères,
  • Saint-Chinian Berlou,
  • Saint-Chinian Roquebrun,
  • Corbières Boutenac,
  • La Clape.

Cotes du Rhone

Although renowned, this wine-growing region does not yet benefit from any official classification of its fine wines.