What are Cru Bourgeois?

A. Good quality, moderately priced wines from Bordeaux

B. Wines produced from the top villages of Bourgeois

C. British nickname for mass-market, unremarkable French wines

D. Wines from Champagne that come from inferior vintages


Some of the most affordable Bordeaux—perfect for every night drinking—are labeled Cru Bourgeois (crew bohr-JWAH). How did they come to be? In the famous 1855 Bordeaux Classification, only 60 of the Medoc region’s best wineries (plus one exception—Château Haut Brion in the Graves region) were selected for ranking into five top quality “Growth” (or Cru) categories. For decades, the several hundred châteaux not classified in 1855, unofficially referred to themselves as the Cru Bourgeois. The term became a legal classification in 1932, and the latest revision recognizes three quality levels: Cru Bourgeois, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. These all deliver wines that taste like they cost more than they do. Keep an eye out for any one of these châteaux: Chasse-Spleen, Haut-Marbuzet, Labégorce-Zédé, Ormes-de-Pez, Pez, Phélan-Segur, Potensac, Poujeaux, and Siran. As for the other possible answers: Bourgeois exists only in one’s mind. I believe the English pejorative of choice is “Plonk.” And in Champagne, cru refers to vineyards, not vintages.

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