On Monday we had the pleasure of visiting a new Champagne supplier in France, Charles Mignon. The export manager, Gaetane Gobance, explained that most of Charles Mignon’s Champagnes come from Grand Cru vineyards or Premier Cru villages. This of course led us to ask numerous questions about Grand Cru and Premier Cru Champagne and here is what she said.
From 1900 onwards, some punters with a penchant for statistics started to roam through the region while tasting grapes, drilling for soil samples and measuring hours of sunshine which resulted in a classification of vineyards. If all factors are satisfactory the vineyard will get a score of a 100%. These are called Grand Cru Vineyards.
The basic quality of the vineyards is expressed in percentages and to make things easy for us a number of percentages are rearranged in so-called cru’s:
- Grand cru (100%)
- Premier cru (90 – 99%)
- Other cru (80 – 89%)
In theory, vineyards that have been classified as Grand Cru vineyards supply better grapes than Premier Cru vineyards. There are only 17 villages of 312 boasting Grand Cru vineyards (13 % of vineyards): Ambonnay, Avize, Ay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Chouilly, Cramant, Louvois, Mailly-Champagne, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Oiry, Puisieulx, Sillery, Tours-sur-Marne, Verzenay et Verzy.
Moreover there are only 40 villages of 312 with Premier Cru vineyards (17% of vineyards): Avenay, Bergères-les-Vertus, Bezannes, Billy le Grand, Bisseuil, Chamery, Champillon, Chigny les Roses, Chouilly (PN), Coligny (CH), Cormontreuil, Coulommes la Montagne, Cuis, Cumières, Dizy, Ecueil, Etrechy (CH), Grauves, Hautvillers, Jouy les Reims, Les Mesneux, Ludes, Mareuil sur Aÿ, Montbré, Mutigny, Pargny les Reims, Pierry, Rilly la Montagne, Sacy, Sermiers, Taissy, Tauxières, Tours-sur-Marne (CH), Trépail, Trois Puits, Vaudemanges, Vertus, Villedommange, Villeneuve Renneville, Villers Allerand, Villers aux Noeuds, Villers Marmery, Voipreux et Vrigny.
The villages without classifications: This is the most used denomination and concerns 255 villages of 312, the equivalent of 70% of vineyards. A lot of winegrowers have only a part of their vines in a village classified Grand Cru or Premier Cru.