Example of a label on a bottle of Zinfandel indicating "CuveeXXVIII" (2008)
Cuvée (French pronunciation: [kyve]) is a Frenchwine term derived from cuve, meaning vat or tank. The term cuvée is used with several different meanings, more or less based on the concept of a tank of wine put to some purpose:
On wine labels to denote wine of a specific blend or batch. Since the usage of the term cuvée for this purpose is unregulated, and most wines will have been stored in a vat or tank at some stage of their production, the presence of the word cuvée on a label of an arbitrary producer is no guarantee of its (superior) quality. However, in the range of discerning producers who market both regular blends and blends called "cuvée...", the cuvée-labeled wines will usually be special blends or selected vats of higher quality, at least in comparison to that producer's regular wine(s). Particularly terms like "cuvée speciale", or "tête de cuvée" (the latter especially in Sauternes AOC) should indicate higher quality.
In this context, higher-quality than ordinary cuvées are often referred to as "reserve wines", while a cuvée lower in quality than the main one is referred to as a "second wine".
In some regions, the term cuvée is used to specifically indicate a blend, i.e., a wine produced from a mixture of several grape varieties, rather than a varietal wine. This is especially true outside of France.
In Champagne and sometimes in other regions producingsparkling wines by the traditional method, the cuvée also refers to the best grape juice from gentle pressing of the grapes. In Champagne, the cuvée is the first 2,050 litres of grape juice from 4,000 kg of grapes (a marc), while the following 500 litres are known as the taille (tail), and is expected to give wines of a coarser character. Many Champagne producers pride themselves on only using the cuvée in their wine.
The term can also be applied to beer and ale or chocolate to refer to a batch that is blended by the manufacturers to produce a certain taste. Many lambics and gueuzes, sour beers with wine-like characteristics, are marketed as "cuvee". When used of beer, ale, or chocolate, the term has no defined meaning, but is meant to evoke images of higher quality, similar to the use of "reserve" as a designation for wine in areas where the term is not regulated by law.