Chablis Panorama

Sloping quality

The next entry in the A to Z of wine is P

Letter-P premier cru

For Premier Cru.


Premier cru, grand cru, villages… Have you ever seen these terms on a French wine label? Chances are you have, but what exactly do they mean?

In France, just like other old world countries, the soil or more specifically “terroir” is considered very important. The cru system was developed to reflect this; Grand cru being the best and most highly regarded, Premier cru coming in a close second and villages bringing up the rear.

Particularly in Burgundy it all rests on the soil type and where you are located on the slope.

This is a very simple concept and all you need to do is imagine what happens to the soil on a hillside when it rains.

At the top of the slope the soil is too stony and rocky as all of the loose soil has been washed down the slope with the rain. Therefore soils at the top of a slope are lacking in nutrients, and soils at the bottom of a slope are drowning in them and very fertile as a result. Neither of these types of soil are of any use when you want to make good quality wine, so here you often find ‘villages’ level wine.

The sweet spot falls in the middle of the slope – here it’s just right and this is where the Grand Crus sit, nestled in between the premier crus on either side.

grand montrachet

Although this particular system is specific to Burgundy, you find similar examples in most regions. Just remember that is you see the terms either ‘Grand cru’ or ‘Premier cru’ on a label then you’re likely to be in for a treat.