What is cuvée in wine? What does this fancy-sounding word mean? You’re likely to come up against competing definitions when you search for the meaning of this term. In fact, when you’re trying to understand more about wine in general, you’ll often come up against a litany of French-sounding terms, just like this one, that don’t seem to have any obvious explanation.
Bolney Wine Estate is here to help, though. We have been crafting our own wine for half a century, including award-winning English Cuvée Wine, and are proud to share our expert knowledge with anyone who needs it.
This simple guide will explain what the word cuvée means, where it comes from, and exactly what cuvée wine is, including cuvée Champagne. You’ll be a cuvée connoisseur in no time at all – and may even be tempted by our impressive portfolio of home-grown cuvée wines.
What Does Cuvée Mean in Winemaking?
Our first port of call is to define cuvée. The answer is actually a little more complex than you may think.
When a wine is referred to as cuvée, it generally means that it’s a special blend of more than one grape variety. The word derives from the French term cuve, which is a vat or a tank, referring to the usage of such a vessel at some point in the winemaking process. This base meaning, however, doesn’t have a lot to do with the way the term cuvée is actually used.
There is a perception that wine labelled as cuvée is of superior quality, but as the term is not regulated in any way, it’s not a guarantee. The lack of regulation for wines being labelled cuvée also means that there is no one universal way the term is used.
Having said this, the most common usage of the word cuvée, especially outside of France, is in referring to a wine that’s made of a specific blend of different varieties of grapes.
Confusingly, it can also be used to describe the first cut from the pressing of the grapes, which is regarded as the best juice. But this is more commonly used in relation to Champagne production.
What is Cuvée Champagne?
Champagne is the term used to describe sparkling wine made in the traditional method in the specific region of France, Champagne. Wine made of the same grape varieties and in the same method cannot be referred to as Champagne even if nearly identical, because this word is legally reserved for wines made in the Champagne region only.
When the term cuvée is attached to Champagne, it gets even more specific. Here, it specifically relates to the first 2,050 litres of grape juice derived from the gentle pressing of 4,000 kg of grapes. The 500 litres after this are expected to be used for wines that are coarser in character.
This first-pressed grape juice is the most desired, which is where the perception of the superior quality of cuvée wines comes from. In fact, Champagne makers pride themselves on using only the cuvée in production.
How is Cuvée Wine Made?
Most of the time, a wine with cuvée on the label is a sparkling wine. Sparkling wine produced outside of the Champagne region that is labelled cuvée will be made in the traditional method, one of many methods of sparkling wine production.
Production always begins with base wines that go through a first fermentation. This is where the sugars in the grape juice are converted into alcohol by the yeast. Then, a special selection of base wines will be blended: this is the cuvée part.
After that, the cuvée will be bottled and undergo a secondary fermentation once yeast, nutrients for the yeast, and sugar have been added. The dead yeast cells form deposits called “lees” which contribute to aromas and flavours. The wine will be aged on these lees, which are then removed.
This traditional method is considered the finest method for sparkling wine production, allowing for the development of complex flavours and aromas.
What Does a Cuvée Wine Taste Like?
As with the definition of cuvée, there is no one answer for this. Cuvée wines, while generally sparkling, can be red, white, or rosé and, therefore, have a variety of flavours and styles! They can be sweet or dry, full-bodied or light.
At Bolney Wine Estate we have a variety of beautiful cuvée wines made in the traditional method to suit any taste. Our award-winning Cuvée Noir is a unique sparkling red wine with an exquisite creamy richness to its body and sweet spice on the finish. Alternatively, our Classic Cuvée offers a fresh, elegant taste with brioche and sweet apple notes.View our full range of English Cuvée wines
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If you want to sample the best of English Wine production, cuvée or otherwise, look no further than Bolney Wine Estate. We have been making quality red, white, and rosé wines, sparkling and still, for over 50 years and are endorsed by a string of awards.
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