You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around. I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!
This week’s word is meritage (rhymes with heritage)…
A United States trademarked designation, adopted in 1988 by the Meritage Association for California wines that are a blend of the varieties of grapes used in Bordeaux. A red Meritage might be made up of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. A white Meritage would be a blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon…Producers may choose to not use the term Meritage even if their wine meets the qualifications.
In other words, it’s a Bordeaux blend without using the term Bordeaux on the label, which would infringe upon the Bordeaux region in France’s legally protected designation of origin. The word itself is a combination of the words “merit”, and “heritage”. According to the Meritage Alliance:
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.
I’ve not come across any white wines labeled as Meritage in my wine travels. Have you?