What is Meritage Wine?

Have you ever come across a wine labeled as Meritage and wondered what it is? It's made in the U.S. where you can dependably know what a wine is because the label will tell you the grape varietal used to make the wine.  But this U.S. made wine seems to fall into the category of many European wines; the label does not directly tell you the grapes used in the wine's production. And for good reason.

Old World wines, especially those of France, are named for regions. Regions where only certain grapes are allowed to be grown. Additionally, there are regions, such as Bordeaux, where the wines are blends of these controlled grapes. And, as you may know, these Bordeaux blends have done rather well in the world market.

Blended wines have been made for years in the U.S., but their labels had to say generic things like "Red Blend" or "Table Wine."  Not nearly as sophisticated sounding as a Bordeaux. So, in 1988, U.S. wine makers decided to form an alliance and create a name for their blended wines. They decided on blending two words: 'Merit,' for having worth, and 'Heritage' for the Bordeaux style of wine making. Thus the new word 'Meritage.'  But, instead of making it sound like it is a French wine, they insisted that it be pronounced to rhyme with the word heritage.

Red Meritage can be blended from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenère. White Meritage is produced from Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle du Bordolais.  So these blends rely on the traditional Old World Noble grapes yet gives U.S. wine maker's their own name for their blends.

Don't skip over this wine just because its label doesn't tell you what it is.  The label actually does tell you what grapes may be used. But most importantly, it allows wine makers the freedom to blend their own very unique creations from a common set of grapes. Cheers!