Ever Wonder - What is Jug Wine?

Jug Wine - Generic.jpg

While strolling through the wine section of my local grocery store, I was asked “Do you know what Jug Wine is?” My attention was drawn to a sign above the shelves that identified the section as “Jug Wine.”

My first reaction was to state that it’s cheap bulk wine. But, the immediate follow-on question that I got was “What type of wine is it?” I had to shrug my shoulders and say “I don’t really know. Probably some blend of grapes.” Turns out, both of my responses were correct.

You’ll find that these jug wines are commonly sold as “Burgundy” for the red ones or “Chablis” for the white ones. These are trademark name of their wine brands and definitely not French wines. In France, red wines from Burgundy are made from Pinot Noir and wines from Chablis are made from Chardonnay. Some makers of the jug wines go so far as to call them “Reserve” which is just a bit of a stretch since that term is not regulated in the U.S.

So I did a little digging and learned, for example, that Gallo's Hearty Burgundy is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Teroldego and Zinfandel, while Carlo Rossi Burgundy is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ruby Cabernet and Syrah.

Another blending wine is Barbera. In California, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Barbera was one of the most successful grapes being grown in the Central Valley, where it became a major blending component in jug wines. Unfortunately, Barbera still gets a bad rap because of this. Yet, it’s one of my favorite varietal wines, especially from the Amador and El Dorado Counties of California.

So, yes, jug wine is inexpensive bulk wine that’s a blend of different grapes. And, it’s very popular as a table wine in the U.S. So, enjoy! Cheers!

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!