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? 

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  • 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 !!

  • 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?

Reply
  • 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?

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