What does "Grand Vin" mean on a wine label?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

I am confused over the term “Grand Vin.” I read that it denotes the premier wine produced by a château to differentiate it from second-growths. In Bordeaux, would one therefore expect it be rated as a top wine? If I saw Grand Vin on a label, would it indicate the top quality and style of that area? Could it be a white wine, or only red?

—Jane H., St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles

Dear Jane,

“Grand Vin,” or “great wine,” is an impressive-sounding but unregulated term. I’ve most often seen it used with red Bordeaux as a way for a château to indicate its best wine, a step up from the second bottling. Since it denotes what they believe is their best showing, it’ll typically carry a higher price tag. It may be a terrific wine, or not. You might prefer the second bottling more. All you know with the term “Grand Vin” is that they’re marketing it as their best.

One more point—you mention a “second-growth” where I think you meant to say “second bottling,” and I don’t want you to confuse those terms! The term “second-growth” refers to the Bordeaux Classification of 1855, when wine brokers ranked châteaus based on reputation and price, from first-growth down to fifth. So, a second-growth is one of those specific 14 châteaus that were awarded a second-growth classification. A second bottling, however, has nothing to do with the Bordeaux Classification; the term simply refers to a bottling that the winery feels is a step behind its best, or Grand Vin, bottling. There are first-growth second bottlings, second-growth second bottlings, third-growth second bottlings and so on. That’s not confusing at all ... is it? OK, maybe it is.

—Dr. Vinny

France Bordeaux Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Short-term, is it OK to store wine at room temperature?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert, Dr. Vinny, offers tips on how to keep wine at its …

May 10, 2021

Can I ask a restaurant to store my own bottle of wine there for a few weeks before I come in to drink it?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for corkage and BYOB etiquette.

May 3, 2021

How long does it take a new vineyard to yield grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how long it takes a grapevine to produce …

Apr 26, 2021

Which wines are “clean”? What does that even mean?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that there are no "unclean" wines, and the term …

Apr 19, 2021

How many gallons of wine are in a ton of grapes?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how many barrels, gallons, cases and bottles of …

Apr 12, 2021

Does wine age the same under synthetic and natural corks?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of a variety of wine closures, …

Apr 5, 2021