Meritage, a term derived by combining ‘merit’ and ‘heritage,’ is used to denote Bordeaux-style wines that are crafted outside of Bordeaux. This designation is particularly prominent among wines produced by members of the Meritage Alliance. A Meritage wine, whether red or white, must be a blend of two or more of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties. In the case of red Meritage wines, these varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot, and Carmenère, with no single variety making up more than 90% of the blend. The most commonly used varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
The regions where Meritage grapes thrive are often similar to those of Bordeaux, given that these varieties are traditionally Bordeaux grapes. These regions typically possess climatic conditions and soil profiles conducive to growing these varietals. Key factors include a temperate climate with a long growing season and well-drained soils. Such conditions are found in parts of California, particularly in Napa and Sonoma Valleys, as well as in Washington State and certain regions in Canada and Australia. These areas offer the right balance of sunshine and coolness, with soils ranging from gravelly and sandy to loamy, ideal for nurturing the complex character of Meritage grape varieties.
Wines made from Meritage grapes are renowned for their intricate aromas. Red Meritage wines often exude rich, layered scents encompassing dark fruits like blackcurrant and plum, complemented by nuances of tobacco, cedar, and sometimes floral or herbaceous undertones, depending on the blend composition.
Taste-wise, Meritage wines are known for their elegance and complexity. The palate often reveals a harmonious blend of flavors – the robustness and depth of Cabernet Sauvignon, the softness and red fruit notes of Merlot, and the spice and structure from Cabernet Franc. Additional varietals like Malbec and Petit Verdot can contribute dark fruit flavors and color intensity, respectively. These wines are typically medium to full-bodied, with a balance of fruit, tannins, and acidity that allows them to age gracefully.