Rubicon, Napa Valley
Opus One, Oakville
Insignia, Joseph Phelps
Quintessa, Rutherford Napa Valley
Chalk Hill, Estate Appellation
In 1988, a group of American vintners formed The Meritage Association (now The Meritage Alliance) to identify and promote handcrafted wines blended from the traditional “noble” Bordeaux varieties.
Historically, most New World wines are labeled after the grape variety that comprises at least 75% of that wine. A label with “Cabernet Sauvignon,” for example, indicates that the wine is made from a minimum of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
Many winemakers, however, believe the varietal requirements do not necessarily result in the highest quality wine. The pioneers in this movement created the term “Meritage” to identify wines that represent the highest form of the winemaker’s art – blending – and distinguish these wines from the more generic moniker, “red table wine.”
“Meritage,” pronounced like “heritage,” was selected from more than 6,000 entries in an international contest to name the new wine category. Meritage is an invented word that combines “merit” and “heritage” – reflecting the quality of the grapes and the ancient art of blending wine.
Over the years, the word “Meritage” has been widely adopted into the English lexicon. Housing developments, apartments, hotels, restaurants, financial firms and even car washes use “Meritage” in their names, and it is often used to describe a mixture of several things or something of unusually high quality.
Red Meritage wines historically have been among the world’s most highly rated wines. They are prized for their smooth, silky texture and complex, robust structure. While they age beautifully – often for decades – most are also very drinkable in their younger years.
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.