What is meant by a “Cru” in wine? The term “Cru” is most often used for the French classification system, but the “Cru” concept can apply to any vineyard region recognized for their superior wine quality.
My last seminar during the Vancouver International Wine Festival was on the topic of “cru”. What it is and how it is expressed. We had Evan Goldstein and Sara D’Amato, both wine educators, to talk about “cru” and to moderate a discussion with our panelists from around the wine world.
Our Panelists were Grant Bellve, Donal Black, Alessandra Boscaini, Laura Catena, Michael Clark, Jean-Luc Colombo, Moreno Coronica, Mark de Vere MW, Emily Falcouner, Jose Luis Muguiro, Jorge Ramos, and Antonio Zaccheo, Jr.
Our Featured Wines
- Tyrrell’s Wines Winemakers Selection Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2014 (Australia)
- Viña Carmen DO Quijada Semillon 2017 (Chile)
- Clos du Soleil Winery Estate Reserve Red 2013 (Canada – BC)
- Bodega Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard River Stones Malbec 2016 (Argentina)
- MASI Agricola Brolo di Campofiorin Oro 2014 (Italy – Veneto)
- Carpineto Poggio Sant’Enrico 2010 (Italy – Tuscany)
- Coronica Wines Gran Teran 2015 (Croatia)
- Jean-Luc Colombo Terres Brulées Cornas 2016 (France – Rhone)
- Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, ToKalon Vineyard, Napa Valley 2016 (California – Napa)
- Wines of Substance Substance Vineyard Collection – Jacks Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Washington – Walla Walla)
- Marqués de Riscal Finca Torrea 2016 (Spain)
- Fonseca Vintage Port 2017 (Portugal)
Let’s Talk About Cru
Evan and Sara began by defining “cru” as a “vineyard or a group of vineyards, especially one of recognized quality”. The quality of the grapes coming from terroir. Terroir they define as the combination of factors including:
- soil and drainage
- slope and aspect of the land
- sun and exposure
- micro-fauna (microbes in the soil)
They also mentioned, as did Andrew Jefford in the French Terroir Talk, that terroir also needs human intervention. In the winery, it can be things such as choice of yeast, types of oak barrels, and winemaking techniques. In the vineyard, it can be things such as trellising, spacing, and methods to harvest the grapes.
We moved onto a discussion on how climate affects wine style. In general, a cooler climate produces less ripe grapes with lower sugar levels and higher acidity which leads to lower alcohol content and body in the wine, and some may say then more expressive of terroir. While in a warmer climate you get riper fruit with higher sugar levels and lower acidity, which leads to higher alcohol and more body, and some may say shows less terroir. With global warming though the cooler climates are becoming less cool, resulting in riper fruit with more sugar.
We then delved into pairs of wines covering a specific grape type or blend, which could be from the same or different parts of the world, but represent superior quality, cru, wines.
My Wine Tasting Notes
The first pairing covered the Semillon grape, which is France’s third most planted white grape variety. It ages exceptionally well and has been taken up by “New World” regions like Australia and South Africa. The two wines below show a more restrained and a more full-bodied version of this grape.
Tyrrell’s Wines Winemakers Selection Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2014 (Australia) – Semillon in general from the Hunter Valley in Australia has great ageing potential. This particular wine is from a prestigious vintage and is anticipated to have a 50year ageing potential. There is no oak contact; 100% stainless steel fermentation. This wine has a bright medium intensity lemon colour with a green tint. It has a smoky, honey, lemon and some stonefruit aromas. It is dry, medium body, with above-average acidity and a waxy mouthfeel. Tart citrus along with toast and vanilla flavours, and some pepperiness on the finish. It’s not quite round, more angular in the mouth. Racy acidity and citrus flavours. We were told that this wine should pair nicely with sushi and raw oysters.
Viña Carmen DO Quijada Semillon 2017 (Chile) – Quijada is the name of the family who owns the vineyard where these Semillon grapes originated. They have owned the vineyard since 1958. 2015 was the first vintage of this wine. We are lucky to have these aged Semillon vines as in the 1980’s many Semillon vines were replaced with other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine underwent a wild ferment and was bottled unfiltered. It has a medium intensity bright lemon colour. It is very aromatic with scents of jalapeno pepper, vanilla, white flowers and creme brulee. This wine is fuller-bodied, round with medium acidity. It has a waxy mouthfeel. Cedar, vanilla, creme brulee and tropical fruit flavours. A peppery finish. I can’t say that I noted terroir where I could point to Chile with this wine, but it was very big and flavourful. –
We next tasted a pairing of red Bordeaux varieties. The first wine is a blend, while the second was a single varietal grape. Both from “New World” regions, although Argentina has been growing grapes since 1557 with cuttings brought by the Spanish. It is interesting that in BC, which is viewed as cooler climate, we tasted a blend, while in warmer Argentina, we had a single varietal Malbec.
Clos du Soleil Winery Estate Reserve Red 2013 (Canada – BC) – The Similkameen Valley where this winery is located has an east-west orientation which causes the area to be quite windy, which then produces a large diurnal temperature change that helps keep a grapes acidity while allowing the flavours to more fully develop. This windiness also keeps things dry allowing for the highest density of organic farms across Canada. Clos du Soleil Winery practices both organic and biodynamic farming principles. This wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The grapes undergo a wild ferment followed by oak barrel maturation. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. This wine has a deep dull garnet colour. Intense black fruits along with pencil leads and hints of capsicum on the nose. It has a medium-plus to full body, is dry with a full mouthfeel. Dark ripe fruit and sweet spices to start, followed by red cherries, cedar, vanilla, and pepperiness on the finish. Soft tannins overall from start to finish. –
Bodega Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard River Stones Malbec 2016 (Argentina) – The Adrianna Vineyard was planted in 1992, at 5000 ft elevation asl, covers 5ha, is filled primarily with river stones, and some nearby clay and limestone. The vines are also planted on their own rootstock which some people say provides the truest flavours and aromas This wine has an inky opaque ruby colour. It has deep, ripe black fruit aromas along with clove and some meatiness. The wine has medium-plus body, dry, round and a silky mouthfeel. It has ripe purple fruit flavours along with floral, black pepper, oak, vanilla, and some minerality. Fine ripe tannins. Medium length. –
Our third pair of wines are from Italy; Veneto and Tuscany. The Veneto wine was a blend of the Corvina, Rondinella, and Oseleta grapes, and the Tuscany wine was from the Sangiovese grape. The commonality between the two regions is Sangiovese and Corvina because they are used as primary blending grapes. Being able to blend these grapes with other grapes gives the winemakers the ability to try different things.
MASI Agricola Brolo di Campofiorin Oro 2014 (Italy – Veneto) – This is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Oseleta grapes. It is made in the appassimento method where 30% of the grapes are dried to condense the fruit flavours before fermentation. This wine is a medium intensity dull opaque garnet colour. It has a light leather and dusty red fruit nose. It is dry with a medium-plus body and an angular mouthfeel. I get subdued red fruit flavours and some minerality. Light body with fine tannins. –
Carpineto Poggio Sant’Enrico 2010 (Italy – Tuscany) – Sant’ Enrico is the best Sangiovese vineyard owned by Carpineto. The soil is made of blue clay. The family began making wine in 1967 with this particular wine being made starting in 1998. The wine is fermented with indigenous yeasts. This wine was almost completely opaque black garnet in the glass. It had a light graphite, cedar, and dark fruit nose. The wine has a lighter body with medium acidity and tannins. Red fruits and raspberry flavours, finishing with tart red fruits and a drying, puckering finish. A wine that needs some time to age. –
Our fourth pair of wines are from Croatia and the Rhone Valley in France. Single varietal wines. The Teran grape has structure and colour and a vibrant floral aromatic. The Syrah grape from Cornas in the Rhone Valley can express different flavours and aromas depending on climate. These two wines will show the results from extreme viticultural zones.
Coronica Wines Gran Teran 2015 (Croatia) – The Teran grape is indigenous to Croatia, but can also be found in the Veneto region of Italy as a blending grape. This grape variety is thin skin and is easily affected by wind and rain. The best Teran grapes are grown on a “terra rosa” red soil in Croatia. This wine is 100% opaque garnet coloured. It has deep, ripe plum and purple fruit aromas. It is fuller-bodied with higher acidity, light tannins and some minerality. Ripe raspberries a touch of floral, minerality and pepperiness. This wine has a lightly sweet fruit finish. Acidity and fruit drive this wine. –
Jean-Luc Colombo Terres Brulées Cornas 2016 (France – Rhone) – The Cornas region in the north end of the Rhone Valley only covers 130ha, which is quite small if you compare it to the To-Kalon Vineyard in Napa Valley that covers 2306ha. The soil is made of crumbly decomposed granite. This wine is 100% opaque garnet in colour. It has a light intensity nose with clove, meaty and dark fruit aromas. It has a medium body and acidity, with a lighter mouthfeel. It is more angular and not round in the mouth. Nutmeg, and a mix of red and black fruit flavours, along with some minerality. This is an acidity driven wine. Very light tannins.
We then moved on to the USA, where we tasted two different versions of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet Sauvignon is the United States’ most important red grape, and when you think of Napa Valley wines, you probably first think of Cabernet Sauvignon. Washington State is a “newer” producer of Cabernet Sauvignon compared to California, is showing great quality, but is not yet well-known around the world.
Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, To-Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley 2016 (California – Napa) – The blend for this wine is primarily made from Cabernet Sauvignon, but there is also 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. Robert Mondavi knew that the To-Kalon vineyard was where he wanted to plant his grapes. The vineyard receives warm sunny days, cooled by Pacific breezes in the evening to prolong the ripening time, get more intensity, and keep the flavours fresh. This site has an alluvial fan soil type. The gravels get dropped first, giving good drainage, and provides transparency in the wines. This wine has a deep, dull opaque garnet colour. Quite a cedary nose, along with vanilla, cassis and ripe black fruit aromas. It is fuller-bodied, soft and round with lighter acidity and fine, soft tannins. Soft red fruit and cassis flavours, along with light cedar, vanilla and nutmeg.
Wines of Substance Substance Vineyard Collection – Jacks Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Washington – Walla Walla) – This is a wine produced by the single Jacks vineyard, a gravelly soil, and the grapes undergo a natural ferment. This wine has a medium intensity 50% translucent brickish red colour. It has a light intensity nose showing red fruit and sweet spices. It is dry, lighter-bodied along with light acidity and tannins. Light ripe red fruit flavours and some pepperiness. Some sweet spices and sweet fruit flavours on the finish. Overall light aromas and flavours. –
Our last two wines come from Spain and Portugal. Rioja is a long-aged wine as is port.
Marqués de Riscal Finca Torrea 2016 (Spain – Rioja) – this winery was established in 1858. It is located a three-hour drive north of Madrid. A blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. The wine label shows a map of all the vineyard parcels that make this wine. It has a deeper, approximately 85%, opaque garnet colour. It has a light intensity red fruit nose along with some dustiness. It is medium-bodied with medium acidity and a round mouthfeel. It is slightly sweet and has red fruit flavours along with some sweet spices. Softer tannins but get drier on the finish. –
Fonseca Vintage Port 2017 (Portugal) – Fonseca is founded in 1815, located in the Douro Valley, and is the valley has a continental climate. Uses indigenous grapes. There are over 80 red grape varietals that can be used for port production. This port is a field blend of grapes. They have some vines more than 100 years old. When they plant new grapes they try to match the grape variety to the soil where it grows best. All the grapes are picked by hand and put into granite lagars where they are trodden by foot. They needed to foot tread as they did not have access to electricity till 1976 and now continue to foot tread. A vintage port is the best wine a House can make in top years. On average this has been 3 times per decade. This port is opaque; 100% garnet. It has a medium intensity nose with strong cherry and sweet cherries aromas and floral and licorice notes. This port is fuller-bodied with medium acidity and a thicker mouthfeel. It is sweet, very peppery, and has flavours of ripe black and red fruits, plums, cherries, and licorice.
Thank you to our moderators and panelists for sharing the information about cru and their wines, and thanks to the consulates and embassies of the participating wineries for sponsoring this seminar.