What does “cru” mean to you? The Oxford Dictionary recognizes cru as “a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized quality.” It is a French wine term traditionally recognized as the past participle of the verb “croitre” (to grow), meaning growth. Cru is tied to the French sense of terroir as a place of production and used to name a specific and legally recognized vineyard or group of vineyards that grow on reputed terroir. Furthermore, the word cru is used within the classification of French wine. A French wine that displays cru on its label is stating that it contains the typical characteristics of its cru designated vineyard’s terroir. The terms Premiere Cru (first growth), Grand Cru (great growth) are further designations of levels of presumed quality within the specific wine region. In France cru is a legal designation of standards and control. Can the idea of cru be used in wine regions outside of France?
Marchesi de Frescobaldi disagrees with the popular held notion that “cru” is the past participle of the verb to grow. Rather, Frescobaldi recognizes “cru” as the past participle of the verb “croire” meaning to believe. This is a significant difference. According to Frescobaldi, “‘Growth is a term that could be used when describing any vineyard, even those that produce mediocre wines.” However, “Belief is a term that leads one to the idea that it is ‘believed’ that a vineyard will produce an excellent wine, that a vineyard has proven its credibility, and has produced wines of the highest quality.” The use of the term cru through a meaning of belief allows the concept to be expanded beyond the borders of France.
Marchesi de Frescobaldi joined 38 other prestigious Italian wine producers in 2005 to form the Comitato Grand Cru d’Italia with the purpose of “unit[ing] under this name most of the producers that for at least 20 years have guaranteed the world wines of the highest quality.” Though the alliance does not allow the use of “cru” on Italian wine labels at this point the wines are designated as having cru status by utilizing the same Bordeaux Grand Cru classification guidelines. Today, there are 30 wines designated as Italian Grand Crus, 17 are Tuscan. Though the term can only really be used for marketing purposes Frescobaldi believes the real meaning of cru in Italy should be “wine made from the grapes of a vineyard that has long guaranteed a quality level well above the average.” As in France, Frescobaldi utilizes the understanding of cru as “a system of certification of the quality of a wine.”
I recently participated in a Machesi de Frescobaldi Cru Wine Tasting featuring Director of Winemaking Niccolo D’Afflitto and four Machesi Frescobaldi cru wines. Niccolo is dedicated to the upkeep of the vineyards, and is convinced the quality of the wine begins with the vine, with the terroir. He aims to identify and honor the differences and the values of the various “crus,” while being attentive to safeguard the original characteristics of the terroir during the entire production process for each and every wine. Here are my notes on the wines we tasted:
Pomino Benefizio Riserva 2012: This wine was crafted of 100% Chardonnay from grapes cultivated from the Castillo di Pomino vineyard in Pomino, Rufina, averaging fourteen years of age. It poured an intense straw yellow into the glass with firm spice notes of cloves and orange peel leaping out of the glass, toasted cedar is met with soft orchard fruit that is not prominent but rounds out this outstanding textural wine; racy on the palate with a silky mouth feel that is creamy but not at all buttery, bright and intense acidity well balanced with an elegantly lingering finish; this wine offers the true essence of northern Tuscan time and place; 13% alcohol; SRP $50.
Mormoreto Toscana IGT 2011: This wine was crafted from 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petite Verdot, 5% Merlot from grapes cultivated from the Moremoreto vineyard in Perlago, averaging fifteen years of age. It poured a deep ruby with violet highlights into the glass; juicy dark fruit aromas of black cherry, black berries, plums and cranberries erupt from the glass, closely followed by savory herbal and spice notes, eucalyptus, tobacco and toasted cedar notes; a firm spice of acidity with penetrating tannins create a full body wine of dazzling pedigree and sophistication; full body, long and pleasing finish begs for another sip. This wine represented a modern interpretation of Tuscan soil. Niccolo referred to this wine as a “French tourist in Tuscany.” It embraced the ideals of Italian fashion, cuisine and history. 14.5% alcohol; SRP $79.
Giramonte Toscana IGT 2011: This wine was crafted from Merlot and Sangiovese from grapes cultivated from the Tenuta di Castiglioni in Comune di Montespertoli, from vines planted in 1993. This wine poured a rich ruby into the glass; complex nose of black cherries, black berries and black raspberries are met with ground coffee beans, dark chocolate, thyme, fresh damp tobacco leaves and a touch of pepper, if velvet had a smell this would be it; velvety texture follows through on palate with sophisticated richness that is balanced by round acidity and persistent tannins that will integrate beautifully over time; it was graceful and perfectly proportioned in a full body wine with a long and lovely finish; Niccolo said this wine is “like a Michelangelo, needs to get out of the bottle to decide who it is going to be.” 14.5% alcohol; SRP $150.
Ripe Al Convento Di Castelgiocondo Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2009 Riserva: This wine was crafted of 100% Sangiovese from grapes cultivated from the Tenuta di Castelgiocondo vineyard in Montalcino, averaging seventeen years of age. It poured a light garnet into the glass with fruit driven aromas of black cherries, plums, and currants accompanied by licorice, dark chocolate, espresso beans, savory herbal notes and fresh tobacco leaves; it was delicate yet powerful with an imposing structure that was rich and bold, round acidity that was elegantly balanced with well integrated tannins for a full body, long finish; 15% alcohol.
Frescobaldi has identified these wines sourced from specific vineyards as being among their cru status wines. Each wine represents the terroir of the vineyards in a way that is unique and of the highest quality. It was a wonderful wine tasting. Niccolo provided great insight to the vineyards as well as the wine making process. Frescobaldi epitomizes the Italian Art of Living. You will be most pleased to add any and all of these Frescobaldi cru wines to your portfolio.
My Song Selection: The Frescobaldi family has been historically significant in Italy for centuries. Dino Frescobaldi was a friend of Dante Alighieri. He recovered and returned Dante’s first cantos of Divine Comedy to Dante upon his exile from Florence. Gerolamo Frescobaldi was an early composer of Baroque music and is still recognized as one of most influential representative and created works of great notoriety that are still performed today. Here is one such work of Gerolamo performed and recorded live at the Holy Ghost Church Nitra.
Get your own bottles of Marchesi di Frescobaldi cru wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!