Meritage is neither a varietal nor an appellation. It has become, however, a wine name that continues to grow in significance. The name was created by a small group of California vintners in 1988 to solve a problem. With the U.S. wine labeling laws being oriented toward labeling with a single varietal, these wine growers and winemakers wanted to create a common proprietary name that readily identified a common style of wine resulting from utilizing a blend of varietals, in this case, a blend patterned after French Bordeaux.
The Meritage Association was formed in 1988 with less than a dozen members and had only grown to 24 members eleven years later in 1999. Some of its founding wineries had already gained success with Bordeaux style blends given their own proprietary names. These included such renowned names as Silver Oak, Opus One and Elu. However just a scant four years later, their success promoted an explosion in the adoption of the wine style as well as a corresponding need in marketing it. As a result, the Meritage Association grew to over 100 members in several states.
Shortly thereafter, the Meritage movement became international in scope, prompting a reorganization and name change to the Meritage Alliance for the licensing organization. Today, the Meritage Alliance website lists over 270 members. Well over half are still from California, but alliance members hail from twenty-three U.S. states and seven different countries.
|4 affordable and easy to find Meritage reds|
Not all members have used the term “Meritage” in labeling their wines, but most are doing so. As alliance members, they, of course, follow the licensing requirements in producing the wine. To be labeled a “Meritage” the licensed wine must result from a blend of two or more of the permitted varietals with no single varietal constituting more than 90% of the blend. The permitted varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere for red Meritage. For white Meritage, the varietals are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle du Bordeolais. A production limit of 25,000 cases is recommended and it is further suggested, but not contractually required by the Alliance, that the Meritage be positioned as the winery’s premiere wine in label and in price.
|a red Meritage|
from New Mexico
|A white Meritage|
The growth of Meritage association members since 2003 has led to a greater selection, more consistent quality and generally good affordability in Meritage. If you enjoy a Bordeaux style blend, it may be well worth your effort to seek out and pour a Meritage. Some of the very affordable Meritage reds The Wine Guy has enjoyed include the ones shown in the blog photograph above: Lyeth Sonoma County Meritage Red, Hahn Central Coast Meritage Red, Crandall Brooks Napa Meritage Red and Sterling Vintner’s Collection Central Coast Meritage Red. A couple of other reds well worth seeking out are Casa Rondena New Mexico Meritage and St. Supery Napa Valley Elu. White Meritage has been slower to develop but that may also be changing as the Alliance grows. The largest non-U.S. foreign membership is from Canada, home of quality white wine producers and the fourth largest state for U.S. membership is New York, also home to quality white wines. The Wine Guy recommends looking for Jackson Trigg’s Proprietor’s Reserve Meritage White from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. I'm sure there are others worth seeking as well and would encourage readers to post your recommendations in the available comment box.
Go explore. Try a Meritage soon and enjoy!