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Celebrating Sauvignon

Sauvignon sits sublime in all its glory. Number one in the popularity stakes, it is the nation’s favourite grape when it comes to white wines. Bright and beguiling, fresh and flavoursome; this grape is behind some of the world’s greatest white wines. Let’s see why it’s so celebrated . . .

Sauvignon Blanc takes its name from 'sauvage' ('wild') and 'blanc' ('white') meaning 'Wild White'
Sauvignon Blanc takes its name from ‘sauvage’ (‘wild’) and ‘blanc’ (‘white’) meaning ‘Wild White’

There are an amazing assembly of Sauvignon’s available nowadays; lively and pure as single variety wines, 100% Sauvignons dazzle with their summery cut grass and gooseberry flavours. Blended; they take on a different dimension, reaching new heights.

Stellar Sauvignons are the world class blends of Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Graves, Pessac Leognan and Sauternes.

Chateau Haut Brion Blanc
Chateau Haut Brion Blanc

Great as the blended whites of Grand Cru Chateaux Haut Brion, Smith Haut Lafitte and d’Yquem may be, small scale Bordelaise wine makers turn out super Sauvignons too. Bordeaux has always blended its grapes for maximum effect and here Sauvignon is mixed with Semillon and Muscadelle. Further afield in France wine makers create glorious combinations, matching Sauvignon with Viognier, Gros Manseng, Colombard, Chardonnay or even the uncommon Loin de l’Oeil. Far from their Bordeaux brethren, Sauvignons are being married with Chenin Blanc in South Africa, Gewurztraminer in California and Verdejo in Spain as wine makers continue to push the boundaries of this versatile grape.

Wherever you look, there is a Sauvignon to suit you.

As you can imagine styles vary immensely but they do fall into 3 categories:

Loire Valley Sauvignon - Les Hauts Lieux
Loire Valley Sauvignon – Les Hauts Lieux

Wine Style

The Sauvignon Blanc grape produces mainly dry white wines but it’s also used to make sweet and semi sweet whites in Sauternes, Bordeaux. It’s hall marks are flavours of gooseberry, grass and bell pepper; freshness and juicy acidity. There are 3 distinct styles of Sauvignon Blanc wines which depend on whereabouts it is grown in the world:

Style 1: Loire Style – Sleek, lively and graceful wines. Fermented in steel or concrete vats they are unoaked and express delicate flavours. These Sauvignons are bright, refreshing wines that are less fruity than New Zealand Style Sauvignons. Flavours tend to be of green apples, green gooseberry, grapefruit, freshly cut grass and subtle green bell pepper. Loire Sauvignons are renowned for their flinty minerality (the scent of fresh wet stone). Well known Loire wines are smoky Poully Fume, Sancerre and Touraine.

Bordeaux Blend - Chateau Rioublanc 50% Sauvignon, 50% Semillon
Bordeaux Blend – Chateau Rioublanc 50% Sauvignon, 50% Semillon

Style 2: Bordeaux Style – Smooth, rounded wines with shimmering complexity. Blended (with Semillon, Muscadelle or Sauvignon Gris) and aged in oak barrels they have more floral aromas and are deeper and rounder than Loire Style Sauvignons. Flavours tend to be deeper and are of red gooseberry, lime, white peach, grass and vanilla (from the oak barrels). Great, age worthy Bordeaux Style Sauvignons are made by the top Grand Cru Classe chateaux and are much pricier than their peers.

  • Sweet and Semi Sweet Whites – There are around 10 or so AOCs in Bordeaux that make sweet (dessert or ‘liquoroux’) and semi sweet (moelleux) white wines. The AOCs Sauternes and Barsac are the better known. Sauvignon Blanc is combined with Semillon and/or Muscadelle to make wines with a beautiful balance between sweetness and zesty acidity. Flavours can include apricots, peaches, dried pineapple, nuts and honey. First class wines have an incredible ability to age (100+ years) and continue to develop in bottle for decades.

Marlborough is the prime Sauvignon region in New Zealand
Marlborough is the prime Sauvignon region in New Zealand

Style 3: New Zealand Style – Vibrant, polished and racy wines with zingy acidity and intense tropical fruit. These Sauvignons are pungently aromatic and are at the opposite end of the spectrum to Loire Sauvignons. The flavours of New Zealand Sauvignons are lush and exuberant, showing cape gooseberry, nectarine, jalapeno pepper, passionfruit and pineapple. Most are steel tank fermented but wine makers have started to experiment with oak barrelling to produce more complexity.


1005 Sauvignon in Bordeaux, Fleur de Luze
1005 Sauvignon in Bordeaux, Fleur de Luze

Sauvignon Blanc originated in France and both Bordeaux and the Loire lay claim to its birthplace. There’s a constant argument as to which region is its true home – Bordeaux’s claim is that the grape was mentioned in texts as early as 1710 in Margaux. The Loire’s claim is a little more tenuous as they say that Rabelais mentioned the grape in 1534 under one of its ancient synonyms, ‘fiers’. Either way, the grape definitely comes from S W France!

From Bordeaux and the Loire Sauvignon Blanc globe trotted around the world and it is grown in New Zealand, Australia, California, Chile and South Africa. The first cuttings of Sauvignon Blanc were brought to California in the 1880s and were taken from the Sauternes vineyards of Premier Cru Chateau d’Yquem in Bordeaux. It was introduced more recently to New Zealand in the 1970s.


Sauvignon, food friendly and refreshing
Sauvignon, food friendly and refreshing

Sauvignon Blanc takes its name from ‘sauvage’ (‘wild’) and ‘blanc’ (‘white’) meaning ‘Wild White’, perhaps because it was once a naturally occurring wild vine rather than a cultivated one.

DNA analysis shows that despite being a white grape Sauvignon Blanc is surprisingly the parent of a famous red grape: Cabernet Sauvignon, thanks to a pairing with Cabernet Franc.

Sauvignon Blanc’s ancestry is a bit of a mystery but evidence points towards one of its parents being the ancient French grape Savagnin Blanc. Savagnin is native to Jura in eastern France. If this is correct then Sauvignon Blanc is a sibling of Gruner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc and Verdelho.

Sauvignon Gris is a pink berried mutation of Sauvignon Blanc
Sauvignon Gris is a pink berried mutation of Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Gris (also known as Sauvignon Rose) is a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc and has a dusky pink/apricot hue to its grapes. It contains higher sugar levels than Sauvignon Blanc and produces richer wines with melon and mango flavours. Sauvignon Gris is currently undergoing a revival in Graves and Pessac Leognan in Bordeaux with chateaux using it in their white wine blends (see Sauvignon Gris – A New Star for Bordeaux Chateaux?).

Terroir: Climate and Soils:

Sauvignon Blanc is late to bud and early to ripen. It enjoys a cooler climate as it doesn’t like the heat. However it does like a lot of sunlight; so in the hot New World regions of South Africa, Australia and California it flourishes in cooler pockets or in higher mountain altitudes (as in Chile). Maritime or continental climates (such as Bordeaux, the Loire and New Zealand) suit Sauvignon Blanc well as it can ripen more slowly here, allowing the grape time to develop a balance between its acidity and sugar levels.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes
Sauvignon Blanc grapes

As a rule of thumb the colder the climate the more acidic Sauvignon Blanc wines become, mainly due to the grapes being unable to reach full ripeness. On the other hand if the climate is too hot then the wines become dull and flat.

The vines grow in a variety of soils across the world which, along with the wine makers techniques and climate of the region, can affect its style and flavour. The chalky limestone of the Loire imparts a mineral taste to the wine and in New Zealand the clays are said to deepen Sauvignon’s fruit flavours.

My Recommended Sauvignon:

Gouleyant Loin de L’Oeil Sauvignon 2013

Gaillac Blend - Gouleyant - 20% Sauvignon, 80% Loin de l@Oeil
Gaillac Blend – Gouleyant – 20% Sauvignon, 80% Loin de l’Oeil

An original and intriguing blend of the rare Loin de l’Oeil grape and Sauvignon Blanc, made by specialists Georges Vigouroux and his son Bertrand-Gabriel.

Tasting Notes:

Unique blend of Sauvignon Blanc with Loin de l’Oeil, an ancient speciality from Gaillac in SW France. A marriage made in heaven with an incredibly rare partner. Very fragrant with lovely depth. Floral aromas of orange blossom and rose water with layered flavours of baked apple, peach and apricot finished with lemon zest and hints of almond.

Food and Wine Pairing:

Gouleyant pairs beautifully with salt and fresh water fish, bouillabaise, spicy prawns, pasta puttanesca and paella. It’s also delicious with chicken dishes, pheasant, turkey, warm salads and cheese.

Having read about the origins and the adaptability of this popular grape why not try for yourself how versatile the sauvignon grape is by buying our Sauvignon Blancs Case currently on offer at £79.99. Alternatively search on our website for other wines containing the UK’s most popular white grape? Taste the difference and surprise yourself with the value and quality drinking this grape offers.


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Bordeaux’s Super Superieurs

Bordeaux Superieurs are a good tip for wine hunters searching for wines a notch above the norm. Although production is limited these wines pack more punches than regular Bordeaux and tend to be deeper flavoured, rounder and more complex . . .

bellevue favereau pellegrue banner
An extremely good Bordeaux Superieur, Chateau Bellevue Favereau is superb value for money. Produced by the Galineau family in Pellegrue – an ancient Bastide which takes its name from the Cranes that gather there on their migration.

Their name gives it away: Bordeaux Superieurs are simply ‘Superior Bordeaux’ – wine made to strict rules that define its quality. They offer super value for money and are a wonderful source of affordable Bordeaux that ticks all the right boxes.

What is a Bordeaux Superieur?

Bordeaux Superieur is a regional appellation (AOC). This means that they are governed by demanding regulations and that in order to qualify as a Bordeaux Superieur the wine must meet exacting criteria. Samples are judged by an inspection board and, subject to meeting the standards, wines that meet the mark are granted the label Bordeaux Superieur.

Chateau Peynaud Bordeaux Superieur 2010 £7.99 - Chateau Peynaud is an outstanding Bordeaux Superieur and is starting to be recognised as one of the most reliable wines in the Bordeaux Superieur appellation, being greatly in demand because of its price/quality ratio.
Chateau Peynaud Bordeaux Superieur 2010 £7.99 – an outstanding Bordeaux Superieur and is starting to be recognised as one of the most reliable wines in the Bordeaux Superieur AOC, being greatly in demand because of its price/quality ratio.

Bordeaux Superieurs have a particular style that the inspection board look for; Reds must be characterised by their harmony, elegance, rich aromas and good balance, and be able to age well. Whites must be distinguished by their zesty freshness, fruity and floral aromas and smoothness. High quality is paramount and as you can imagine the selection process is rigorous. The end result are super wines with a great reputation; their merits stand out above the crowd.

Bordeaux Superieur Key Facts

1. Only 2 French AOCs have a ‘Superieur’ classification: Bordeaux and Beaujolais. Bordeaux Superieurs can be both Red or dry White wines:

  • Red – Bordeaux Superieur Rouge

  • Dry White – Bordeaux Superieur Blanc

  • Semi Sweet – Bordeaux Superieur Blanc Moelleux

  • Sweet – Graves Superieur

'Y' from Sauternes Premier Cru Chateau d'Yquem is a dry White Bordeaux Superieur
‘Y’ from Sauternes Premier Cru Chateau d’Yquem is a dry White Bordeaux Superieur

2. Bordeaux Superieurs can be produced across the length of Bordeaux but only about a quarter of the Bordeaux vineyard area actually makes them.

3. Like regular Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieurs are blends and are made from combinations of the same grapes. Permitted grapes are:

  • Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc (also Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere which are used to a lesser extent).

  • Whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris (also Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Merlot Blanc, Ondenc and Mauzac which are very rarely used).

4. Bordeaux Superieurs are usually made from older vines in specially selected single plots planted at a greater density than regular Bordeaux:

  • Superieurs must be from plots planted with at least 4500 vines per hectare. This means the vines are stronger and healthier with deep root systems.

  • Chateau Vrai Caillou Bordeaux Superieur 2012 £9.99 - Vrai Caillou is an old estate that has been producing charismatic and polished wines for over a century. Since 1863, Chateau Vrai Caillou has been owned by the Pommier family and its wines were noted in the famed Bordeaux wine directory Cocks & Féret. The estate is a little treasure chest, producing excellent Petit Chateaux claret from its fantastic terroir. Vrai Caillou lies in Soussac atop the slopes of the Butte de Launay, one of the highest points in the region.
    Chateau Vrai Caillou Bordeaux Superieur 2012 £9.99 – an old estate in Soussac, owned by the Pommier family, that produces charismatic and polished Bordeaux Superieur.

    The maximum yield of grapes at harvest must be 10% lower than that of regular Bordeaux (less than 50 hl/ha). With less grapes to nurture on each vine the plant can pump more nutrients into its bunches creating richer, better grapes.

  • The grapes must be riper than grapes for regular Bordeaux too. Riper grapes result in a higher sugar levels which convert into higher alcohol levels and Bordeaux Superieur is 0.5% higher in abv than your usual Bordeaux. The maximum is 13.5% abv for Reds and 15% for Whites.

5. The wines are usually aged in oak 3 – 4 years and regulations state that they must be aged for at least 12 months.

Regularly award winning, Chateau Roc de Levraut, is made by Remi and Roger Ballarin, on terroir originally owned by the 12th Century Benedictine Abbey de la Sauve Maujeure. Roc de Levraut translates as the ‘Chateau of the Hare’s Rock’ and sits in the lieu dit of Levraut. The area is sparsely populated and hamlets sit in a sea of vines. The buildings date back to the 17th century but Romans grew vines here before the monks and remnants of their villas can be seen as parch marks in the fields. The Ballarins are the third generation of wine makers at this little estate and their grandfather used oxen to clear the soil of its characteristic boulders. Today the Ballarins use sustainable agriculture alongside modern oenology, respecting both the land and the grapes. Their Bordeaux Superieur has attracted the attention of renowned wine critics, Jancis Robinson MW, Natalie McClean and we are proud to have introduced it to the UK.
Chateau Roc de Levraut, Bordeaux Superieur 2011, Bronze Medal £9.49 – Produced by the Ballarins, whose wines have attracted the attention of renowned wine critics, Jancis Robinson and Natalie McClean. We are proud to have introduced it to the UK.

6. Bordeaux Superieur is estate bottled ie, it is bottled at the chateau where it was produced. This is not a requirement for regular Bordeaux.

Therefore you get more for your money with a Superieur than you do from a basic Bordeaux . . . why not taste the difference?



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Bargain Bordeaux and Best Wine Deals – Lifting the lid on Lussac: Chateau Les Combes

Bargain hunters can be met with a confusing array of wines when trying to pick out a hidden gem in Bordeaux for a good price. Knowing your AOCs helps; here’s why Lussac can be a steal . . .

Saint Emilion satellite AOCs
Saint Emilion satellite AOCs

With Bordeaux wines hitting the headlines and prices escalating far and above the norm it’s not often we see bargain Bordeaux here in the UK. However with over 30 years experience in the Bordeaux wine industry I know full well that you don’t have to break the bank to drink good Bordeaux. Think beyond the box and start looking outside the recognised regions and you will discover great wines from Bordeaux’s hidden corners!

Lifting the lid on Lussac

Lussac, or Lussac Saint Emilion to give this little wine region its full title, is one of the satellite AOCs that sits to the north east of famous Saint Emilion. Lussac is the most northerly. It has an ancient past and, like Saint Emilion, has Roman roots. Unlike Saint Emilion, it’s not well known and it’s wines are not over priced.

What’s more, being dotted with country estates it can also boast some stunning chateaux.

Rolling countryside of Lussac
Rolling countryside of Lussac

Lussac sits west of the Cotes de Francs and to the south lies Montagane Saint Emilion with the Lavie stream acting as a border between the two. The landscape is slightly higher here than Saint Emilion’s and has more rolling hills. It’s soils are a mix of gravels and sands over clay or limestone bedrock.

The AOC is home to numerous historical monuments and takes the name Lussac from the Gallo-Roman Lucius who kept an estate there. His villa and lands encompassed the village and he is credited with being the first to have planted vines there. Archaeologists have unearthed pruning knives and amphoras in the parish dating from this era. In the 11th century the Cistercian monks settled at Lussac and at one point in time the entire AOC was dedicated to producing wine for religious purposes.

Thanks to being on the outskirts of Saint Emilion, Lussac’s wines were for a long time considered to be its country cousins. However as Saint Emilion steadily priced itself into the stratosphere Lussac’s old family estates and co-operatives quietly improved. At enterprising chateaux the younger generations of wine makers were sent away to study oenology and gain experience in the New World, notably Australia and California.

Lussac's coat of arms
Lussac’s coat of arms

Thanks to their new ambitions and aspirations the younger generation of wine makers have breathed new life into Lussac and its wines are attracting attention again.

Lussac’s wines have moved on from their robust and rustic roots to give a more modern feel. The wines are generally elegant and well structured, in the Saint Emilion style: refined, velvety and generous, powerful and complex. They have luscious and intense notes of strawberry, raspberry and cherry with accents of leather, plums and spices. Top performing Bordeaux wine merchants (negotiants) have opened up shop there – J P Moueix of iconic Chateau Petrus is an example. Some famous wine making dynasties also have a foot in Lussac – Andre Lurton’s Chateau de Barbe Blanche and Bernard Magrez’s Chateau La Croix de ‘Espereance are located there and chateaux owners are also employing prestigious consultants from Saint Emilion Premier Crus to oversee their wine making (Hubert de Brouard from Chateau Angelus consults for Chateau Lyonnat).


This influx of renowned wine makers coupled with the fresh vigour of the younger generation has lead to a resurgence in interest in Lussac’s wines. The revival has lead to Lussac’s wines appearing once more in the UK. However they are wines that usually come from the more prestigious stables accompanied by a price tag to match.

Looking a little deeper into the treasure chest can reap dividends and I can heartily recommend a superb Lussac that is great value for money: Chateau Les Combes.

The small estate of Chateau Les Combes lies in the hamlet of Saint Médard de Guizières in Lussac and was once owned by the Cistercian Abbey de Faize. The vineyards sit in the heart of a triangle of land bordered by the Cotes de Francs, Cotes de Castillon and Coutras. This was a battle field centuries ago, several times over. The last battle was that of Coutras in 1587, when King Henry IV fought to unify France.

The Borderie Family
The Borderie Family

History & Awards:

The Borderie family bought Les Combes for their son Frederic in 2005 from the family of the founder of the local co-operative. The ancient vineyard was a sleeping beauty; unspoilt with plenty of potential. The soils at Les Combes are a mix of clay and limestone and the vines are over 100 years old. The family’s wine producing history goes back centuries and they also own Chateau Vielle Dynastie in Lalande de Pomerol. The family were one of the few who continued to produce wine and shelter locals during the German occupation in World War II.

Frederic Borderie
Frederic Borderie

Frederic is a prime example of Lussac’s younger producers; he is talented, enterprising and innovative. After years of studying oenology and gaining experience in the Loire, Rhone, Australia and California’s Napa Valley, Frederic settled down to make wine at Les Combes. He has been successful with his wines receiving both national and international awards and gathering interest in the French press.

Hot Tip:

The talented younger generation has lead to a resurgence in interest in Lussac's wines.
The talented younger generation has lead to a resurgence in interest in Lussac’s wines.

Frederic is as proud of his much acclaimed wines as he is of his family’s heritage. He uses a cold maceration of 5 days at 8°C to make his Cuvée Saint Louis Bordeaux Superieur. This Cuvée is made from grapes on vines that are over 100 years old. Cold maceration means that grapes are soaked for several days before fermentation to optimise extraction. The benefits are better colour, more complex aromas and flavours and softer tannins.

Cold maceration has become a very popular technique in the industry within recent years and is said to have originated in Burgundy with their Pinot Noirs. However Frederic maintains that it actually stems from an ancient Saint Emilion technique. Cuvée Saint Louis Bordeaux Superieur is aged for 14 months in barrels of French oak (50% new oak). Frederic uses the best traditional techniques in harmony with modern technology to produce his wines. Interviewed by the French newspaper Le Point, Frederic explains:

‘When one has a good red meat, you do not need sauce. When the wine is pure, you don’t need anything artificial.’

Chateau Les Combes 'Cuvee Saint Louis' Bordeaux Superieur 2011 – Silver Medal
Chateau Les Combes ‘Cuvee Saint Louis’ Bordeaux Superieur 2011 – Silver Medal

Chateau Les Combes ‘Cuvee Saint Louis’ Bordeaux Superieur 2011 – Silver Medal £7.99*

Chateau Les Combes Cuvée Saint Louis 2011 was awarded a Silver Medal in Paris and is a rich, full bodied Claret.

Tasting Notes:

Luscious flavours of blueberry, truffle and juicy blackcurrant with smoky notes of leather, caramel and sandalwood. Supple and balanced with velvet tannins and a complex nose. Well structured and generous with a black fruit and liquorice finish.

Food Pairing:

Cuvée Saint Louis is superb with lamb, beef, and venison but also marries well with duck, pigeon and pheasant. It is great with highly flavoured dishes using cheese or salty bacon, chicken or pork in rich herby sauces and mushroom based recipes.


* Price correct at the time of writing.

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The Question of Cuvées – What are they and are they any good?

Look through the rows of bottles available to buy nowadays and you’ll come across a few with ‘Cuvée’ on their labels. Not many people know what a ‘Cuvee’ is or why we should keep our eyes peeled for them . . .

Cuvée is a French word that basically means 'special blend'
Cuvée is a French word that basically means ‘special blend’

Cuvée is a French word that basically means ‘special blend’ and although it originated in France you’ll see it applied to wine labels from all over the world. The word Cuvée is derived from the word ‘cuve’ meaning ‘vat’ and dates back to 1825 when French wine makers started to put special emphasis on their quality blends. Cuvées tend to be distinctive house-style blends made to finely crafted recipes that generally denote a wine of superior quality; one that is better than the wine maker’s regular production.

Sadly the term Cuvée is not regulated. If it was controlled, countries outside France would probably not be permitted to use it. Some producers will put Cuvée on their wines labels to dupe the consumer into thinking that the bottle contents are a notch above the rest. However the majority of producers stake their reputations on their Cuvées which are of real quality and reflect true craftsmanship.

Cuvées tend to be distinctive house-style blends made to finely crafted recipes.
Cuvées tend to be distinctive house-style blends made to finely crafted recipes.


When selecting a Cuvée it’s useful to bear in mind who produced it and where it comes from. You’re most likely to see the word Cuvée on a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine but it is also widely used to label reds and, less commonly, still whites. If the Cuvée is a red or white wine and comes from a chateau or estate that you recognise you can be assured that it is no ‘ordinary’ wine.

If in doubt, check the small print on the label. A lot of good Cuvées have been recognised with awards and medals.


Bordeaux wines are blends so usually when you see the word Cuvée on the label you know that the wine maker has singled this wine out as exceptional to the norm.

Cedric Boulin of Chateau de Cappes
Cedric Boulin of Chateau de Cappes

Bordeaux Cuvées are often named after the wine maker, the founder of the chateau or a famous person eg:

  • Chateau de Cappes ‘Cuvée Cedric’ is named after the young, up and coming wine maker who is the son of the founder, Patrick Boulin. Cedric studied oenology at Chateau La Tour Blanche in Sauternes and gained experience in the King Valley, Australia. ‘Cuvée Cedric’ is his first special blend and merited a Gold Medal.

    Chateau Les Combes Bordeaux Superieur 'Cuvée Saint Louis'
    Chateau Les Combes Bordeaux Superieur ‘Cuvée Saint Louis’
  • Chateau Les Combes Bordeaux Superieur ‘Cuvée Saint Louis’ is named for King Louis IX of France who reigned from 1226 until his death. He was canonised in 1297 and is the only French monarch to be declared a saint. He is the patron saint of distillers. Made by the Borderie family, Cuvée Saint Louis was awarded a Silver Medal for the 2011 vintage.

Chateau Perrot 'Cuvée Prestige'
Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvée Prestige’

Bordeaux producers also name their choice blends ‘Prestige Cuvées’ eg:

  • Chateau Perrot ‘Cuvée Prestige’ is so named to highlight its superior quality which goes above and beyond their Bordeaux blend. The chateau is owned by the Chavaux family and ‘Cuvée Prestige’ is aptly named as it gained a Gold Medal for the 2010 vintage.

Cuvées are sometimes named ‘Cuvée Vielles Vignes’ after the old vines they were made from.

Old vines in Bordeaux can live to over 100 years old and with age they produce smaller grapes and yield less clusters. Smaller grapes mean a higher ratio of skin to juice which results in deep, intense wines of great quality.

Chateaux owners in Bordeaux are not the only producers of wine, Bordelaise wine merchants (negotiants) make wines as well.

'Cuvée' de Jean Baptiste Audy
‘Cuvée’ de Jean Baptiste Audy

You’ll often find a negotiant produces a Cuvée as a house speciality eg:

‘Cuvée’ de Jean Baptiste Audy is made by the negotiant House of Audy (established in 1906) and is named after its founder, Jean Baptiste. Cuvée is an old style Claret made with a little Syrah in the blend (as was common in 1855) and hails from Audy’s flagship estate Chateau du Courlat in Lussac Saint Emilion.

Tête de Cuvée in Sauternes is the ‘cream of the crop’

The sweet whites of Sauternes and Barsac will sometimes name their wines made from their best grapes ‘Tête de Cuvée’ (tête meaning ‘head’, or in this instance ‘the top or the best”). Chateau Suduiraut ‘Creme de Tête Cuvée Madame’ is a superb example.


Rhone producers follow the same patterns in naming their Cuvées as those in Bordeaux but it’s worth remembering that some producers name a Cuvée after an historical event.

Rocca Maura 'Cuvée 1737'
Rocca Maura ‘Cuvée 1737’
  • Rocca Maura ‘Cuvée 1737′ from the Cotes du Rhone is a great example. This award winning Cuvée hails from Les Vignerons de Roquemaure in the heart of the southern Rhone Valley. These ancient vineyards gave birth to the term ‘Cotes du Rhone’ in 1737. Roquemaure, with its historic castle and port, was their commercial cradle. A royal decree specified that no wine or harvested grapes could be brought into Roquemaure from outside the area and the letters CDR (Cotes du Rhone) were branded by hot iron into the Roquemaure wine barrels to mark their quality. Les Vignerons de Roquemaure, named their Cuvée ‘1737’ as it represents the quintessence of the Cotes du Rhone and honours this auspicious year.


In Champagne the word Cuvée has been widened to mean a special blend.  But as most champagnes are a blend, all champagnes are Cuvées!
In Champagne the word Cuvée has been widened to mean a special blend. But as most champagnes are a blend, all champagnes are Cuvées!

In Champagne the word Cuvée is used in two different ways:

Cuvée in Champagne can mean a particular blend that the champagne maker has created or the first juice that comes from the pressing of the grapes.

La Cuvée – similar to Extra Virgin Olive Oil, this is only made from the juice extracted from the gentle first pressing of the grapes. This is considered to be the finest and best quality. Champagne grapes are pressed in batches of 4000kg known as a ‘marc’. A maximum of 2,666 litres can be extracted by 3 separate pressings:

  • 1. La Cuvée – 2,050 litres (most top end Champagne Houses only use La Cuvée)

  • 2. La Taille (the tail end, which is closer to the bitter pips and stems) – 410 litres

  • 3. La deuxieme taille (the last drops) – 206 litres

Prestige Cuvée commonly refers to a vintage champagne, carefully blended from the best parcels of grapes, that sells for a premium.
Prestige Cuvée commonly refers to a vintage champagne, carefully blended from the best parcels of grapes, that sells for a premium.

Champagne Cuvées – in Champagne the word Cuvée has been widened to mean a special blend. But as most champagnes are a blend, all champagnes are Cuvées! Just because a champagne has Cuvée on the label it doesn’t mean that it is higher quality than normal.

Prestige Cuvée, Speciale Cuvée – these Cuvées can be something special. Cristal (created in 1878 for Czar Alexander II of Russia) from the Champagne House of Roederer and Dom Perignon (created in 1921) from Moet et Chandon, are both Prestige Cuvées.

Prestige Cuvée commonly refers to a vintage champagne, carefully blended from the best parcels of grapes, that sells for a premium. However as the term isn’t regulated you may find that a champagne labelled Prestige Cuvée isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

Remember; if in doubt, check it out!

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Win Tickets: AeroExpo UK, 29 – 31 May 2015, at Sywell Aerodrome


Bordeaux-Undiscovered will be showing our wines at AeroExpo UK 2015 this year and we have 10 Day Tickets to give away as prizes. It promises to be a fantastic event so why not enter our Draw and see if you are a winner?

To enter our Prize Draw simply answer the following question:

‘Which plane won the Battle of Britain?’

Email your answer to

Good Luck!