The cuvée - all adulterated???
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Here in Germany, cuvées are not yet as popular as in other regions of the world, because in our country each wine bottle usually stands for one grape variety - and this is also noted accordingly on the label. Each grape variety has its own aroma profile and this should be presented independently.
In a cuvée, two or more grape varieties are blended together with the aim of combining the advantages of each grape variety into a total work of art.
First, each grape variety is vinified separately, and following that, the wines are blended. This is usually done in a complex process with small test series. The art requires good sensory skills and a lot of experience. Because the wines do not yet taste like the final product when they are freshly blended but will continue to develop after the blending, and this development must be predicted.
In other countries, it is perfectly normal to blend wines together to create the most harmonious wine possible.
Famous cuvées are, for example, Bordeaux wines, which in the case of red wines usually consist of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (other grape varieties are permitted, but usually only in small quantities are added). For white wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle are often blended (Entre deux mers). Here there are rules for the distribution of quantities, but each bottle contains at least two grape varieties.
In France, cuvée actually refers to the contents of a wine barrel. If wines are blended, one speaks of assemblage.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape allows up to 13 grape varieties, and even white varieties are allowed in red wine.
Another well-known cuvée is Chianti. It consists almost exclusively of Sangiovese, to which small quantities (up to 20%) of Cannaiolo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot are added.
Spanish Rioja, in turn, is mostly Tempranillo (well over 50%) blended with Grenache, Mazuelo and Graciano.
Alsatian Edelzwicker, which is not so popular today, is also a cuvée of the white grape varieties found there: Chasselas, Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewürztraminer.
Champagne is a particularly famous cuvée. Here, up to three different red and white grape varieties are fermented into wine before blending, then refined in a second fermentation to sparkling wine. (But I'll describe that to you in another blog installment).
The respective exact recipes of the blending proportions are often secrets of the wineries, because the winemakers create their wine as they want them. The individual wine should represent the stylistics of the winery, and here a recognition is desired when enjoying the wine. This is considered the high art of oenology.
More and more cuvées are also being found in Germany. If the wine consists of two grape varieties, both grape varieties may be written on the label, but not three or more! Then it is certainly a cuvée. But this does not mean that the wine is no longer something special. It is worthwhile here to simply try out one or the other product.
For winemakers in Germany (and also in Alsace), the single-varietal wine is the standard. The grape variety that is written on the bottle is also 85% in it. Legislation allows the addition of 15% of another wine without any obligation to declare it. If a wine is labeled Riesling, it may contain up to 15% of another grape variety and even of another vintage.
By the way, this rule applies throughout Europe. However, wines from different countries or regions may not be blended for quality wines, but only wines from the respective winery.
Particularly in Austria and Germany there is also another type of cuvée; the mixed set (gemischter Satz). Here, different grape varieties are planted in one vineyard, harvested together, pressed and then also fermented together. Since the different grape varieties ripen differently each year, a new wine is also created each year, which usually cannot be compared to the previous year. Exciting!
Specialties are the Württemberg Schillerwein and the Baden Rotgold. These are cuvées of red and white wine grapes that are pressed and processed together. But this is the only exception, because in the classic rosé wine, red and white wines may not be blended.
SSo as you can see, nothing is adulterated here. Rather, the aim is to produce a wine that is harmonious and balanced. A cuvée should always taste better than the individual base wines.
Let yourself be surprised!