Meritage

meritage association

Meritage is a proprietary term used to denote Bordeaux-style wines without infringing on the French region’s legally protected designation of origin. Winemakers license the Meritage trademark from its owner, the California-based Meritage Alliance. Most Meritage wines come from California, but there are members in 18 other states and five other countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, and Mexico). Many people, including some wine experts, Frenchify the word ‘Meritage’ by pronouncing its last syllable with a ‘zh’ sound, as in ‘garage,’ but the Meritage Alliance specifically states that the word should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘heritage.’ The Meritage Association was formed in 1988 by a small group of Napa Valley, California vintners increasingly frustrated by regulations stipulating wines contain at least 75% of a specific grape to be labeled as that varietal.

As interest grew in creating Bordeaux-style wines, which by their blended nature fail to qualify for varietal status, members sought to create a recognizable name for their high-quality blended wines. A red Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot or Carmenère, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend. A white Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend. Although not stipulated by the licensing agreement, the Meritage Association strongly recommends that wineries label only their best blend Meritage and limit production to no more than 25,000 cases.

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