What does Cuvée mean on a wine label?


Cuvee

Author: Liz Andersen

Home isolation has had its benefits …. My home has never sparkled quite as much as it does right now, nor been as organized. T-shirts rearranged by colour and sleeve length …. Check.  Cleaning products lined up in the cupboard in the order they are used in my new draconian cleaning regime …. Check.

As the day draws to an end, I feel I should now turn my focus towards dusting and tidying my rapidly depleting wine rack.  That roughly translates as ‘I really have earned a glass or two after today’.

Should it be a straightforward Côtes de Rhône Cuvée Rouge, or perhaps a sparkling Brut Cuvée Prestige?

Cuvée this …. Cuvée that?  What on earth does it all mean and how does it affect the quality and style of the wine currently waiting patiently in my glass?

Cuvée meaning....lots of things!

Thinking back to French class at school, I do remember that ‘cuvée’ in French translates literally as ‘tank’ in English.  So we can assume that the word cuvée on a label refers to a particular tank of wine, marked out from other similar tanks for a particular use.  Madame Tripot would be very proud of me!

Upon digging further into the meaning of the term cuvée, it appears that it can be used to mean a few different things depending on the wine being made.

For example, let’s take Champagne. Here it can mean a batch of champagne made from the very first gentle pressing of the grapes, which indicates prime quality.  The wines pressed after this first pressing are known as the taillé (tail), and are expected to give wines of a coarser character.

However, cuvée Champagne can also refer to a particular blend of different types of wines which go into the recipe made by a Champagne house. Blending is very common when making champagne as it allows the producers to create a consistent style year on year.

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Cuvée stands also for a blend wine

So the word cuvée on the label, whether on a still or sparkling wine, can be used to indicate a special blend unique to a producer, or made from a selection of wines selected from higher quality tanks of wine. 

A producer can use this to make a distinction between its regular wine offering and something a bit more special, for which many wine lovers will be happy to pay a small premium.  Taking it all a step further, a producer might also make a cuvée prestige, or top cuvée reserve labelled wine, indicating an even higher quality than its regular cuvee.  A great choice for a special occasion, while still being able to buy from a known producer.

The one drawback when it comes to Cuvée as a labelling term is that, currently, it is non-regulated and relies on the integrity of the producer to label accurately.  Yes, you may be paying a slight uplift on a very ordinary bottle of wine simply because of the perceived quality given by the word Cuvée on the label!  Scandalous, I hear you cry!

Only one way to find out … that glass of Côtes de Rhône Cuvée has been sitting quietly waiting for my attention ….. sorting the sock drawer can wait for tomorrow.  Cheers.


1 comment


  • Robin Williams

    Thank you for explaining this, very entertaining and very informative.


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