Monday, October 21, 2013

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Meritage

Three bottles of various Meritage Wines

Three bottles of various Meritage Wines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Meritage Alliance is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Here we present an interesting collection of tidbits about our favorite wine…

WHAT IS MERITAGE?

While Meritage wines are wildly popular (the fastest growing wine category in each of the last three years!) not every blended wine is a Meritage. Meritage wines must meet strict guidelines.

A red Meritage must be a blend of at least two of the following varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot St. Macaire, Gros Verdot or Carmenère.

A white Meritage is a blend of at least two of the following varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon or Sauvignon Vert.

No single grape variety may make up more than 90% of a Meritage wine.

WHAT IS THE MERITAGE ALLIANCE?

The Meritage Alliance is an organization that owns the Meritage registered trademark and promotes the Meritage concept.

In order to use the Meritage trademark on a wine label, a winery must meet the strict Meritage blending guidelines (above) and must be a dues-paying member of The Meritage Alliance.

Membership fees are modest. The Alliance charges $1 per case produced, up to a maximum of $500. Fees are assessed on each vintage of Meritage a winery releases.

As of January, 2013, there are nearly 320 wineries that are members of The Meritage Alliance, representing 26 U.S. states and six other countries – Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Israel and Mexico.

More information about The Meritage Alliance is available online at www.meritagealliance.com .

HOW DO YOU PRONOUNCE “MERITAGE?”

Meritage is probably the most mispronounced wine term because people mistakenly think it’s a French word. It’s not!

Meritage rhymes with “heritage.”

The word is a combination of “merit” (for the quality of the grapes) and “heritage” (recognizing the centuries-old tradition of blending wine varietals).

Meritage was selected from more than 6,000 entries in an international contest held to come up with a unique name for wines blended in the tradition of Bordeaux.

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WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MAJOR MERITAGE MILESTONES?

Meritage wines have been produced for 25 years since the founding of The Meritage Alliance (formerly The Meritage Association) in 1988. Here’s a look at our history!

1987 Two dozen California vintners, led by Agustin Huneeus (Franciscan Winery), Mitch Cosentino (Cosentino Winery), Julie Garvey (Flora Springs) and David Stare (Dry Creek Vineyard), conducted an international contest to come up with a unique name for wines blended in the tradition of Bordeaux. The word “Meritage” was selected.

1988 The Meritage Association is founded and Meritage is trademarked.

 1988 “The Poet” by Mitch Cosentino (Cosentino Winery) becomes the first Meritage released to the market. It was a 1986 vintage.

1988 Dry Creek Vineyard releases its 1985 Meritage, which is the oldest vintage labeled “Meritage.”.

2001 Wineries from Canada join the Association as membership is expanded beyond the U.S. borders.

2003 Meritage wines are included in tastings at VinItaly, expanding their reach into the European wine community.

2005 Membership exceeds 100 for the first time.

2006 Meritage wines were invited to participate in a tasting of Bordeaux-styled wines organized by Italian journalists in Vicenza, Italy.

2007 Membership exceeds 200 wineries for the very first time.

2009 The Meritage Association changes its name to The Meritage Alliance.

2010 For the first time, Meritage becomes the fastest growing wine category across all price ranges, up 14% over the previous year.

2010 The Meritage Alliance is a key sponsor of the third annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, WA.

Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta and the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.

2012 For a third straight year, Meritage sales grow faster than any other wine category, this time up 26% from 2011 totals.

2012 The Meritage Alliance pours at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival, with Bravo TV’s Top Chef taping a segment tasting through members’ wines. The Alliance also poured at the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival.

2012 Membership surpasses 300. At the end of 2012, 319 wineries in 26 U.S. states and six other countries are members of The Meritage Alliance.

2013 The Meritage Alliance celebrates its 25th anniversary.

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