Meritage wine is a term coined by winemakers in California in the late 1980s. It refers to a blend of Bordeaux-style grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. The name “Meritage” is a combination of “merit” and “heritage,” and it is used to describe high-quality blended wines that meet certain criteria. In this article, we’ll explore the history and characteristics of Meritage wine, as well as the regulations that govern its production.
Meritage wine is a category of blended wines that are made using traditional Bordeaux grapes. The term “meritage” is a combination of “merit” and “heritage” and was coined by American winemakers in 1988 to distinguish their high-quality Bordeaux-style blends from other wines in the market. Meritage wines must adhere to specific guidelines to be labeled as such, including the use of specific grape varietals and following specific blending percentages. This results in a complex, full-bodied wine that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a variety of foods.
The History of Meritage Wine
The term “Meritage” was first coined in 1988 by a group of California winemakers who were frustrated by the lack of recognition for their Bordeaux-style blends. They created the Meritage Alliance, a nonprofit organization that established a set of standards for wines that could carry the Meritage name. To be labeled as a Meritage wine, a wine must be made from a blend of at least two of the following grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. Additionally, the wine must be produced in the United States, and it must meet certain quality standards.
The Characteristics of Meritage Wine
Meritage wines are known for their complexity and balance. They are typically full-bodied, with rich flavors of dark fruit, spice, and oak. The exact characteristics of a Meritage wine will depend on the blend of grapes used and the winemaking techniques employed. However, in general, Meritage wines are considered to be among the finest wines produced in the United States. They are often compared to Bordeaux blends from France, and they are prized by collectors and connoisseurs around the world.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone of many Meritage wines. It is a full-bodied red grape that is known for its tannins and acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon wines are typically aged in oak barrels, which give them a rich, complex flavor profile. They are often described as having flavors of black currant, cherry, and cedar.
Merlot is another popular grape used in Meritage blends. It is a softer, more approachable grape than Cabernet Sauvignon, with less tannin and acidity. Merlot wines are often described as having flavors of red fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. They are often used to balance out the tannins and acidity of Cabernet Sauvignon in Meritage blends.
Cabernet Franc is a lighter-bodied grape than Cabernet Sauvignon, with less tannin and acidity. It is often used in Meritage blends to add complexity and nuance. Cabernet Franc wines are known for their herbal and floral notes, as well as flavors of red fruit and spice.
Petit Verdot is a small but important component of many Meritage blends. It is a full-bodied grape with high tannins and acidity. Petit Verdot wines are often described as having flavors of black fruit, violet, and tobacco. They are used in Meritage blends to add color, structure, and complexity.
Malbec is a grape that is traditionally associated with Argentina, but it is also grown in California and other parts of the United States. It is a full-bodied grape with high tannins and acidity. Malbec wines are often described as having flavors of blackberry, plum, and spice. They are used in Meritage blends to add color, structure, and complexity.
Carmenere is a grape that is traditionally associated with Chile, but it is also grown in California and other parts of the United States. It is a medium-bodied grape with moderate tannins and acidity. Carmenere wines are often described as having flavors of red fruit, bell pepper, and spice. They are used in Meritage blends to add complexity and nuance.
The Regulations Governing Meritage Wine Production
To be labeled as a Meritage wine, a wine must meet certain criteria. First, it must be made from a blend of at least two of the following grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. Second, it must be produced in the United States. Finally, it must meet certain quality standards. These standards include:
- The wine must be a blend of high-quality grapes.
- The wine must be aged in oak barrels for at least one year.
- The wine must be bottled in a Bordeaux-style bottle.
- The wine must be labeled with the word “Meritage” on the front label.
These regulations were established by the Meritage Alliance to ensure that wines labeled as Meritage are of the highest quality and meet certain standards of production.
FAQs: What is Meritage Wine?
What is Meritage wine?
Meritage wine is a red or white blend made from Bordeaux grape varieties. The name Meritage is a combination of the words “merit” and “heritage” and is a term used by the Meritage Association to promote high-quality blended wines made from traditional Bordeaux grape varieties. In order for a wine to be labeled as Meritage, it must be made from a blend of at least two of the following grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere.
What are some characteristics of Meritage wine?
Meritage wine is typically a full-bodied wine with complex flavors and aromas. The specific characteristics of a Meritage wine depend on the blend of grapes used and the winemaking techniques employed. Generally, Meritage wines have intense fruit flavors and notes of oak, spice, and earth. They are also known for their smooth tannins and long finishes.
How is Meritage wine made?
Meritage wine is made from a blend of red or white Bordeaux grape varieties grown in varying proportions in different regions of the world. The grapes are typically harvested and crushed separately, with the juice and skins macerated together to extract color, tannins, and flavor compounds. After fermentation, the wine is aged in oak barrels to add complexity and structure. The winemaker then creates the final blend by mixing the wines from the different grape varieties in the desired proportions.
What foods pair well with Meritage wine?
Because of its full-bodied nature and complex flavors, Meritage wine pairs well with many rich and flavorful dishes. For red Meritage wines, pairings include grilled or roasted meats, such as beef or lamb, as well as hearty stews, strong cheeses, and dark chocolate. For white Meritage wines, pairings include shellfish, seafood pasta dishes, and roasted poultry.
How long can Meritage wine be aged?
Meritage wine is known for its aging potential, with some of the best vintages capable of aging gracefully for over a decade or more. The aging potential of a specific Meritage wine depends on several factors, including the blend of grapes, winemaking techniques, and storage conditions. In general, Meritage wines that are high in tannins and acidity are better suited for long-term aging. It is important to store Meritage wine in a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature, and to lay the bottles flat to keep the corks moist and prevent oxidation.