What’s our favorite wine? That’s a tough question because we like so many. If you pinned me down to one, it would be Meritage.
Probably no school kid likes to get homework. I’m no different, but during a study class for Certified Specialist of Wine, I got some homework I didn’t mind.
During the recently wrapped up series of 10 webinars, we’d be assigned a wine of the week. This time, it was Meritage.
First of all, it is pronounced mer-ah-tedge. Not meri-tajh – although you may be tempted to say it that way because it sounds cooler. It is the combination of “merit” and “heritage.” It’s also the moniker for America’s Bordeaux-style blend.
What Makes A Meritage Wine?
Meritage sprang from the desire to create a recognizable name for US blended wines using grapes made famous by Bordeaux blends. The name came out of a contest in 1988 for which there were 6,000 entries. The lucky winner received two bottles of every wine licensed to use the brand for 10 years.
The Meritage Alliance, formerly the Meritage Association, is in charge of education and marketing. Meritage producers must sign an agreement and pay a per case fee up That is capped at $500. I consider lame the wineries who aren’t willing to pony up $500 to use the name Meritage.
Although not included in the licensing agreement, the Meritage Alliance strongly recommends that wineries label only their best blend as Meritage and limit production to no more than 25,000 cases.
A red Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot, or Carmenère, with no grape variety comprising more than 90% of the blend.
A white Meritage is far more rare and, to me, much less interesting. It must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, or Muscadelle du Bordelais.
A Tasty Assignment
While scanning the wine shop shelves at Corks for Meritage, I came across this bottle of Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Meritage. I’m a huge fan of Dry Creek Vineyard and the $24 price was a pleasant surprise.
While our online instructor drilled us on the details of US wine producing regions, I swirled and sipped the DCV Meritage. Dry Creek Vineyard has already released their 2011 and 2012 Meritage, so I was fortunate to latch on to the 2010 edition. It has a couple more years of bottle age to let those tannins mellow and the flavors reach their peak.
The blend is 48% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. This is a smooth rich wine with Merlot providing the rounded flavors and Cabernet Sauvignon providing the punch. The wine is aged for 28 months in a combination of American, French and Hungarian oak.
Luscious fruit flavors of cherry and red berries are noticeable up front followed by darker flavors of chocolate and blackberries. There are no sharp edges to its silky texture. This is a elegant wine that takes you on a float trip down a lazy river.
The 2010 vintage was a difficult one in Sonoma, but the DCV winemakers and vineyard team demonstrated their chops with an outstanding bottle. This is a highly recommended bottle (by me) for under $25.
Homework assignments like this I don’t mind. I decided to award myself an A+.