French wine labels can be incredibly confusing. The labels indicate the region a wine was produced, but not always the grapes used. For instance, the words \u201cGrand\u201d and \u201cPremier\u201d are used a lot, but even though premier means first in French, grand usually appears on the better wine. And then there\u2019s the word \u201ccru\u201d which takes on different meanings across various French wine regions.\r\n\r\nCru translates to \u201cgrowth.\u201d More precisely, it references a great or superior growing site or vineyard, a concept linked to the French notion of terroir. Soil, climate, altitude, aspect and the right variety create a synergy recognized as a cru. Though the term is used throughout France, it\u2019s not always applied in the same manner. The concept is also employed in countries like Germany and Italy, though with subtle differences and implications.\r\n\r\nHere\u2019s a look how the word cru is used around France, Germany and Italy.\r\n\r\n\r\nCrus in France\r\nBurgundy\r\nBurgundy can be a complex region to understand. Yet, its classification system is relatively simple. Grand Cru is the top dog, while the tier just below it is named Premier Cru.\r\n\r\nA cru in Burgundy designates a high-quality vineyard. Often, they\u2019re split into parcels owned by different wineries or estates. These classifications are based on observation that began with 12th-century Cistercian and Benedictine monks in the C\u00f4te d\u2019Or. Every vineyard in Burgundy is classified into this hierarchy. Grand Cru is at the top of the pyramid, followed by Premier Cru, the \u201cvillage\u201d wines, with the generic Bourgogne category at the bottom.\r\n\r\nBurgundy's Cru Hierarchy\r\n\u2022 Grand Cru\r\n\u2022 Premier Cru\r\n\u2022 "Village" wines\r\n\u2022 Bourgogne\r\n\r\nEach of the 33 Grand Crus is its own appellation, and only Pinot Noir or Chardonnay are grown within their boundaries. Very few appellations allow both. Premier Cru wines are less expensive and often a better value, though their long-term aging potential is typically less.\r\n\r\nChablis, uniquely, has one Grand Cru appellation that encompasses seven vineyards. The seven sites have favorable southwest exposure that helps ripen the grapes and overlooks the town of Chablis. Premier Cru is the category just below it.\r\nBordeaux\r\nIn Bordeaux, cru is applied much differently. Grand Cru Class\u00e9 is the best-known quality classification system, and it\u2019s tied to a specific chateau or estate, rather than a contiguous vineyard. Created in 1855, it comprises only left bank chateaus in M\u00e9doc, Graves and Sauternes, ranked from first to fifth growths, based on their value at that time. The first growths are called premiers crus, while second through fifth growth crus are called crus class\u00e9s.\r\n\r\nOn the right bank. Pomerol isn\u2019t classified. But Saint-\u00c9milion provides enough confusion for both.\r\n\r\nSt.-\u00c9milion has two chateau-based quality classifications, though it adds a separate third category. At the top of the quality-pyramid is Premier Grands Crus Class\u00e9s, of which there are 18, followed by Grands Crus Class\u00e9s which contains 64 chateaus. The appellation\u2019s third category is not tied to a specific \u2018classed\u2019 chateau or geographical subzone. Wines labeled \u201cSt.-\u00c9milion Grand Cru\u201d merely have more stringent production rules.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe crus in the rest of France\r\nAlsace applies the term Grand Cru in similar fashion to Burgundy. Fifty-one vineyards have been designated superior, or Grand Cru, and wine from those sites can use the term on its label. There\u2019s incredible diversity in Alsatian Grand Cru wines, with four grapes approved for use, as well as varied soils and aspects.\r\n\r\nNot far from Burgundy sits Beaujolais, France\u2019s Gamay headquarters. There, cru is applied not to vineyards, but villages. There are 10 villages, like well-known Morgon and Fleurie. Wines produced from these villages are called Cru Beaujolais.\r\n\r\nSimilar to Beaujolais, Champagne classifies whole villages as Grand Cru or Premier Cru sources for fruit. Called \u00e9chelle des crus, or \u201cladder of the growths,\u201d the Champenois established the system in the early 20th century to fix grape prices for both farmers and buyers at Champagne houses.\r\n\r\nEach harvest, a price is set. A grower with land in one of Champagne\u2019s grand cru village receives 100% of the price. Fruit from premier cru villages earns from 90% to 99%, while the rest receive from 80% to 89%. Today, there are 17 grand cru villages that include A\u00ff, Bouzy, Cramant and Oger.\r\n\r\n\r\nCrus in Germany and Italy\r\nThe notion of a special site that\u2019s superior to those around it reaches to Roman times. Wine presses found on recovered archaeological sites in the Mosel Valley align with plots deemed superior today.\r\n\r\nIn Germany, the Verband Deutscher Pr\u00e4dikatsweing\u00fcter (VDP), an association of elite German wine estates, has its own vineyard classification system similar to Burgundy. The top tier is VDP.Grosse Lage (grand cru), then VDP. Erste Lage (premier cru), VDP.Ortswein (village) and VDP.Gutswein (regional).\r\n\r\nIn Italy, a few regions aspire to define crus, but Piedmont and Sicily are better-known examples. In Piedmont, Barolo and Barbaresco have mapped out their grand crus by geography, and those vineyard delineations are part of the bylaws of their Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCGs).\r\n\r\nProducers in Sicily\u2019s Etna DOC are mapping crus that follow old lava flows, and their resulting soil and elevation changes, along Mount Etna. The region has been revitalized for fine winemaking only recently, so it may be some time before any official delineation.