Tim's Blog

Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. What does it mean?


One of the confusing things about Saint-Emilion is the term Grand Cru.  There are nearly one thousand estates, domaines or chateaux in the large appellation of Saint-Emilion and as long as producers adhere to four criteria they can add the term Grand Cru onto their label.

To qualify for Saint-Emilion Grand Cru:

  • Wines must have a minimum of 11.5% alcohol (as opposed to 11%);
  • yield is no more than 55 hectolitres/hectare (rather than 65);
  • grapes must be picked slightly riper than the basic AOC requirement (measured by must weight);
  • and the wine cannot be released from the estate for an additional 14 months

It must always be remembered that all AOC systems have nothing to do with quality, they are all about typicity and character.  This results in a fairly low bar as Chateaux wines are not judged against each other.

The net result is there is an inference to the consumer that Saint-Emilion Grand Cru will have a certain prestige or quality which is necessarily not the case.  My advice is to do your research or take advice from a knowledgeable reputable wine merchant!