Meritage, pronounced like heritage (not meri-tahg), first appeared in the late 1980s after a group of American vintners joined forces to create a name for New World wines blended in the tradition of Bordeaux. The word was selected from more than 6,000 entries in an international contest. Meritage combines “merit,” reflecting the quality of the grapes, with “heritage,” which recognizes the centuries-old tradition of blending, long considered to be the highest form of the winemaker’s art.
Meritage wines are growing in popularity and are currently the second fastest growing wine category in the industry. They are highly regarded for their aging potential, yet are completely approachable in their youth.
Many Meritage wines have proprietary names in addition to, or rather than, Meritage. In order to obtain a license and use the term Meritage on a label, a wine must meet the following criteria:
A Red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the red “noble” Bordeaux varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and the rarer St. Macaire, Gros Verdot and Carmenère. If the blend includes any other grape variety, it is, by definition, not a Meritage. Also, to qualify as a Meritage, no single grape variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.
To qualify as a White Meritage, a wine must be a blend of at least two of three specific white “noble” varieties – Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais. No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend. The wine does not qualify as a Meritage if the blend includes any other grape variety.
Meritage wines are provocative red or white wines crafted solely from specific “noble” Bordeaux grape varieties and are considered to be the very best wines of the vintage.
For a list of registered Meritage wineries, visit the Meritage Alliance
Reprint from Meritage Alliance