I just finished Emile Peynaud’s The Taste of Wine. Although it was professorial and very technical in parts, it did offer an extremely thorough look at the sensory aspects of wine and mechanics of how we taste. One of the most interesting discussions came towards the end of the book; a short discussion on the concept of cru. This is often translated into growth in English, as in première cru = first growth. What got my attention is how Peynaud’s definition of the word compared to his definition of terroir. (Ah! terroir, that over used nebulous French concept-word.) Terroir, in Paynaud’s description only accounts for site and soil (which implies degree days, sun aspect, drainage, etc.), whereas cru relates aspects of terroir to man and agricultural production. Terroir, in a sense, is a fixed set of parameters, but cru is how a producer uses those parameters for a qualitative expression, encompassing methods of production and tradition. Cru, therefore, is a much more useful word when talking about wine than terroir. After all, and Peynaud stresses this, wine is a human cultural product. Quality in wine is in large part determined by the choices that a given vingeron makes. Whereas terroir can only offer a potential, man must strive to fulfill that potential.