The crus of Southern Rhône question

Are all 18 AOPs from the Southern Rhône considered crus - or is it only the 9 centered AOPs (CdP, Lirac, Tavel, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes de Venise, Rasteau, Cairanne and Vinsobres) that are of cru-status? If so, what is the difference between the crus and the "non-cru"-AOPs of the Southern Rhône? 
I was under the impression that all 18 AOPs were considered crus, similar to the AOPs of Beaujolais where all 10 AOPs are crus - so what is correct? 

  • To my understanding, those 9 are the cru of the southern rhone. Others may fall under regional appellations (like CdR) or others may be CdR-villages where there are I believe there are 21. What are the other 9 cru you are referring to so we may be able to help categorize correctly? As always, I've been wrong before and will be again.

  • Cotes du Rhône,

    CdR Villages,

    CdR Villages+name,

    Crus

    These are the appellations with increasing quality and stricter regulations.  Over time the reputation for quality and consistency (plus some politics) has been demonstrated in certain villages resulting in elevation up the scale. The Crus are of course at the top, with the CdR Villages+name level being the stepping stone appellations. Some of these villages are small in production though (50-60ha of vines in some cases), so the likelihood of being designated a Cru at some point is quite small due to the cost and time needed to lobby this effort. It does happen, though - I think 2004 was the last major reorganization. It’s important to remember that in the Rhône and Beaujolais, quality is attached to the village/commune rather than a vineyard, as is the case in Burgundy. Only rarely is a vineyard highlighted on the label (La La’s in Cote Rotie, for instance), with a special cuvée or Reserve often being the preferred method of elevation. This is the south where blending is the key to success. I believe the other difference is that CdR Villages can be blended from any of the “villages”, while CdR Villages+name has to come from the named village, only. Crus are the same, just have a higher reputation and even stricter regulations. 

  • Not sure what you mean by crus of the Southern Rhone. Were you finding a cru designation/classification in the southern Rhone?

  • If you see the list from the compendium there are 18 AOPs (one which is the CdR-Villages AOP and one Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise AOP). https://www.guildsomm.com/research/compendium/w/france/465/southern-rhone-valley

    From this simple map you'll see the 9 AOPs, which are commonly referred to as crus, highlighted in a deeper shade of purple (CdP, Lirac, Tavel, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes de Venise, Rasteau, Cairanne and Vinsobres).

    My question is: why aren't the surrounding AOPs; Ventoux AOP, Luberon AOP, Crignan-les-Adhémar AOP, Côtes du Vivarais AOP, Duché d'Uzés AOP, Costiéres de Nimes AOP and Clairette de Bellegarde AOP known as crus? What is the difference between these AOPs and the crus?

    For instance, a bottle of Ventoux doesn't have to write "CdR-Villages Ventoux" but simply Ventoux on the label in the same manner as the 9 crus. If the AOPs in question aren't considered crus, then they should be classified in the hierarchy between CdR-Villages and Cru - but no such ranking exists.

    In Beaujolais, all ten AOPs are crus. This is also the case with the 8 AOPs (or crus) of the Northern Rhône (not including the four AOPs from Die) 

  • Hey Robert
    You can check my reply to Blake Angove further up the thread. Yeah, the ranking is Cotes du Rhône, CdR-Villages, CdR-Villages+name (Côtes du Rhône-Villages Plan de Dieu, for instance) and then Cru.

  • Is this just a semantics discussion or is there actual value in this designation? 

  • Hey Brian
    Thanks for your reply. Please see my reply to Blake Angove further up the thread.

    I'm merely wondering why the surrounding appellations aren't considered crus. If they are not, where do they belong in the ranking system? They are not CdR-Villages+name nor Crus. I don't understand the difference between a cru and the AOPs surrounding the crus (as shown in the map above). The surrounding AOPs are very large (Ventoux AOP and Luberon AOP, for instance), which might indicate that there's an area limitation for crus. The crus are very small in comparison. Also, Cairanne was the latest addition to the Cru-family in 2016. 

    Also a bonus question: Every bottle of CdR-Villages+name are part of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOP, right? So the communes Plan de Dieu, Visan, Valréas and so on don't have their own AOPs such as Côtes du Rhône-Villages Visan AOP, correct?

  • Could you please rephrase the question?

  • Heya Alexander,

    This is an interesting question as I see how the terminology is confusing. I'm not a native speaker but In my experience traveling through France the word "cru" is used fairly regularly/loosely and can describe a very specific place such as a vineyard (even part of) or a larger footprint such as Morgon, Gigondas etc. This word does not carry a specific definition as it pertains to law, it simply means "growth" and its meaning depends on the context in which it's used. It denotes high quality in a colloquial sense and I see how it's confusing due to a lack of a definitive size. This is not used in the same way as premier or grand cru as we see in a host of other AOPs where this terminology is written into the law such as Chambertin or Brand or Chateau Angélus.

    When it comes to the Southern Rhône there isn't a ranking system pertaining to cru, meaning when it comes to how the AOPs are defined by law Gigondas does not rank above Ventoux, regardless if I'd rather drink a Gigondas in most cases.

    To answer your bonus question you are both right and wrong. Where you are right is that Plan de Dieu, Visan etc. do not have their own AOP. The confusing part is that CdR Villages has a "geographical designation" written into the AOP where an approved village can append their name to the CdR Village appellation but that doesn't grant a stand alone AOP with its own laws such as CdR Villages Visan. This is just a way to be more specific in the CdR Village AOP but they all follow the same laws except that Chusclan produces only red & rosé and Massif d'Uchaux, Saint-Andéol, Signargues, Plan de Dieu, Puyméras, Gadagne, Sainte-Cécile, Suze-la-Rousse and Vaison-la-Romaine only produce red. This is essentially an "at bat" for future AOPs, the last village to be elevated to its own AOP was Cairanne in 2016. It was previously a geographical designation under the CdR Village AOP. They have the same system in the Mâcaonnais which you can find here.

    There are two other words that can be used interchangeably with cru that always refer to a vineyard or part of a vineyard, not a larger geographical area that we should clarify as well. These are generally used in Burgundy, but also in the Loire and elsewhere.

    • Climat - this is an officially recognized site in Burgundy which is often a part of a named vineyard that can be put on the label. Take a look at Morgeot in Chassagne for instance which has many subdivisions which can be labeled with this climat designate.
    • Lieux-dit - a site that is not officially recognized in Burgundy or allowed on labels there but can be used in other appellations such as the Loire where essentially the two terms climat and lieux-dit (or cru for that matter) mean the same thing at that point

    I'd love for someone who knows more than me to weigh in as well, as I'm not French and as Blake has discovered am often wrong too. Semantics for non native speakers can be challenging. What I am confident in is what the law states in terms of ranking and definition.

    Help me out !!

  • So in a nutshell, a village that has not been given AOP status can still be a part of CdR Village but that does not allow them to label themselves as the village itself, yes?

  • Thank you for your reply - I appreciate the thoroughness. However, my initial question hasn't been clarified yet.

    I definitely think there's a gray area here. It's a big deal that Cairanne got elevated from Côtes du Rhône Villages-Cairanne, to cru-status in 2016 - in other words, Cairanne achieved its own AOP (Cairanne AOP), but Duché d'Uzés AOP, for instance, was established in 2013 but is not considered a cru.

    My assumption is, that in fairness, every delimited AOP from the Southern Rhône should be considered a cru, as in Beaujolais. Because what is the difference between Duché d'Uzés AOP and Cairanne AOP? They both have their own AOP but Cairanne is the only one of the two considered as a Cru. This has been common knowledge since Cairanne's establishment in 2016, so the term "cru" must have some importance and legal restrictions, which I cannot seem to figure out. 

    So the notion of the term "cru" being simply a loose and colloquial word doesn't make perfect sense to me. It does make sense, however, that Ventoux, Luberon and the large AOPs surrounding the crus, may have a size issue, since this is the only difference I see between the surrounding non-cru AOPs and the 9 classic crus. The overall quality and style is also more consistent within the smaller AOPs (crus) than the larger surrounding AOPs - but where is the official documentation for this, if any? What makes the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOP legally more superior than the Ventoux AOP?

    As I see it right now, the classification system should be:

    • Côtes du Rhône
    • Côtes du Rhône-Villages
    • Côtes du Rhône-Villages+commune (e.g. Côtes du Rhône-Villages Visan)
    • AOP within the Southern Rhône (e.g. Ventoux, Luberon etc.)
    • Cru (the classic 9 AOPs such as CdP, Gigondas, Rasteau etc. which should have a legal reason for it to be called a cru)

    Am I making sense?

  • This is also an interesting question. What are the legal requirements for a commune to achieve Côtes du Rhône-Villages+commune name status. And what are the legal differences, if any?

    As I'm aware, being upgraded to CdR-Villages+commune name-status only gives the producer the right to state the name of the commune on the label (Côtes du Rhône-Villages Plan de Dieu), giving obvious marketing advantages but the wine is still restricted by the common Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOP - therefore no legal changes are made, since both CdR-Villages and Côtes du Rhône-Villages+commune name wines are under the same AOP (Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOP). Am I right?

  • What is your source for stating that Gigondas etc are "crus"? Vacqueyras/Gigondas/Vinsobres etc were all villages before being promoted.

  • Correct, only if they have been approved for a geographical designation. There are plenty of other communes in the Rhône that do not have this option. Not sure the number, but it's a big footprint. In the Mâconnais for instance there are over 80 villages allowed in the general Mâcon Village appellation but only 27 that have a geograophical designation and can append their name to the Mácon Village AOP.

  • My friend took a Mosel Cruise one time. He said it was more romantic than semantic.