Ask the Beer Fox: "What does Cuvée mean?"
T.A., Southampton, New York, USA
Beer Fox Answer: "Cuvée (pronounced koo-vay´) is a wine and beer term, derived from the French form 'cuve' meaning vat or tank. The context surrounding the word’s usage is critical when determining whether it announces special attributes or heightened value with respect to, in this case, beer. In its most basic form, cuvée may refer to beer in a specific container, either wood or stainless steel. Taking it one step further, cuvée is a blend of the best base beers for a second fermentation, either in the bottle, or in specifically selected aging barrels. This blending may marry an older beer with a younger one, imparting the smoother taste and texture of the older, while retaining the vibrancy and vivacity of the younger.
"Cuvée may also refer to a singular, distinctive beer, designed to mature in wood. Aging in bourbon barrels, French oak, or casks that previously held whiskey, Madiera, chardonnay, port or sherry imparts a blending of the seasoned flavors and character of the wood with the beer’s complex flavors developed in the initial brewing process.
"A blend of Belgian beers of different appellations or vintages may also carry the term cuvée. An experienced blender is able to awaken the finest nuances with his cultivated knowledge through the blending process. In fact, the ambitious blend of different styles, when successfully merged, creates a delightful palate for the sophisticated beer aficionado.
"In champagne, cuvée is the name designated for the first and best juices that flow from the press. In the brewhouse, cuvée may be associated with a complex blend of premium ingredients, yielding a top-of-the-line beer. Tête de cuvée literally means “head blend” and is the term for that which is 'top of the line.'"
Beer Fox Selection of Cuvée Beers