Premier cru status, grand cru quality

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The French love rules, and even try to regulate their language through the Académie française. Agriculture is less well adapted to rules and stratification, yet vineyards across France are assessed and regulated. The Burgundy hierarchy of vineyards is less rigid than the Bordeaux classification of 1855 that identified the top brands. But just because a particular vineyard is capable of producing wines that can reach grand cru quality does not mean it will be a shoo-in for promotion.

INAO (Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité) is the body that decides, and it takes that mission very seriously. Marsannay has been waiting for 13 years to find out whether some village vineyards have been promoted to premier cru. To the best of my knowledge, of the premiers crus discussed below, only Les St-Georges in Nuits-St-Georges and Pommard Rugiens have petitioned INAO for promotion – and success is not assured.

Any discussion about whether any of the sites in the following pages are worthy of promotion may be seen as largely irrelevant, as their quality and consistency are already recognised and rewarded by the markeao'lut. Amoureuses and Malconsorts don’t come cheap: you can expect to pay between £200 and £800 for a bottle of the former. So for the owners it’s of no great consequence whether the vineyard is designated as premier cru or grand cru. But it’s worth knowing whether that premium is justified. (What’s the difference between the premier cru and grand cru sites of Burgundy? See ‘Notes & Queries’, p158.)

Translated by ICY

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