I ran into a Pinot Noir producer in Sonoma last week, he produced a yearly Cuvee of Pinot Noir. It’s something more commonly associated with wines produced in Champagne, but given that it’s showing up on wine labels, I thought some others would wonder:
What does cuvee mean?
Let’s start with the most technical definition of Cuvee, from the federal government: Nothing. Yup, the term Cuvee has no legal definition on a wine label. Like many things that winemakers and more importantly wine marketers put on a wine label, there’s no real definition of Cuvee, they may think it will help the wine sell well, or it may something to them internally. There’s really no way to know.
Cuvee in Champagne:
This is where we need to stop and think about how wine made in Champagne and really all sparkling wine programs are dissimilar than all other wines on the market (ok, so in fairness I am eliminating the very cheapest entry level wines in this discussion, Charles Shaw and other $4 and under wines aim to indistinguishable year to year as well). Champagne houses really do want their product to be the same every year. That’s why they often source from a large number of vineyards, that’s why Champagne doesn’t have a vintage listed on it and lastly, that’s why each house has their own unique starter that might actually be more important than the grapes they have coming in the front door.
In Champagne Cuvee refers to the first pressed juice. It’s the best juice and is often bottled immediately by itself. The remaining pressed juice is often blended much more
What is a Cuvee Wine?
In the United States and really, outside of the Champagne region of France, while there might not be a technical definition of Cuvee, there is a practical one when you speak with winemakers. Most winemakers will tell you, that quite simply Cuvee means a blend. Depending on the region, it might be a blend of different grapes, like a GSM from Paso Robles, or a blend of multiple single vineyards of Pinot Noir in Sonoma.
It’s quite simply, Koo-Vay. Or Coo-Vay if you prefer and if that helps you understand the softer K sound.