What is Meritage?
The Mystique of "America's Bordeaux"
Meritage is a red wine blend, made up exclusively of the same varietals used in Bordeaux wines. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and although rarely used Carmenere).
This history of the use of the word Meritage in labeling wines really is fascinating. The brainchild of a group of American vintners, who wanted a way to identify and promote American wines that used the same grapes as those used in Bordeaux. A contest was held to come up with a name to call this American blend. Of the more than 6,000 entries received, Meritage, a completely made up word to combine the words Merit and Heritage was chosen. It is pronounced like heritage, with an M. Read more here: http://www.meritagealliance.com/.
All six of the grape varieties permitted to be used in Meritage originate in France but are grown all over the world, including Virginia.
The flavor profile for Meritage can vary widely depending on the blend of grapes used. This makes Meritage a really unique animal in that the same wine, from the same producer, can be cabernet sauvignon dominant one year and merlot or cabernet franc dominant the next. The concept behind a Meritage is that is supposed to be the absolute best expression of wine that a winemaker can put together. Showcasing not only excellent viticulture but excellent blending skills. This is a beautiful thing, allowing for artistic license and personal expression.
Meritage wines are going to pair well with savory meats and plates of pasta and nearly any cheese, but stronger cheeses like a blue or gorgonzola would be excellent.
Virginia showcases a plethora of excellent Meritage options. In fact, two Meritage wines were chosen for the most prestigious, Virginia Governor’s Cup Case Award for 2018. Ten Gold Awards and three Silver Awards went to Meritage wines as well. Let’s take a look at a few of those:
The Barns at Hamilton Station (Virginia Cellars)
The 2015 Meritage won the 2018 Governor’s Cup Award, but that wine is currently only available to wine club members, so let’s take a look at 2014, which won a Gold award at least year’s competition. It is available for $38 by clicking here. Aged 18 months in barrels, this wine has dark fruit and smoky chocolate aromas and is full bodied and well balanced on the palate. As is sometimes the case with Meritage the blend information was not available.
Barren Ridge Vineyards
The 2014 and 2015 Meritage both won the Silver Award at this year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup. The 2014 also won Silver in last year’s competition. Only the 2010 vintage Meritage is available for purchase at this time, but that’s not bad news because this wine won the Gold Award 4 years in a row (2013-2016). You will find flavors of dark fruit black pepper and vanilla in this wine. It was aged 18 months in oak. Purchase here for $45
The 2014 Meritage won a Gold Award and I love that their website includes lots of details about this wine.
The blend is 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, and 20% Petit Verdot. The grapes were harvested in September of 2014 and all varietals were aged for 12 months in their separate barrels. Once blended they were aged another 5 months in barrel. Only 599 cases were bottled in April of 2016 where they were allowed to age another 12 months before release. You will find this wine to be full-bodied with silky tannins and well-balanced acidity. Flavors of black currant, black cherry, and leather. Purchase for $35.00 here
The 2015 Meritage won the Gold Award this year, however, the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Meritage also won the Gold Award in previous years.
The 2012, 2013 and 2014 are available for purchase here, ranging from $42-46 per bottle. Let’s look at the 2012. This wine won a Silver Award in 2015 and won a Gold Award in 2017, so it is improving with age! The blend is 40% Merlot, 40% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 1% Cab Sauvignon. You will find aromas of dark cherry with red fruits, lavender, tar, and leather with subtle hints of cocoa powder. On the palate it is medium-bodied with flavors of cherry and prunes up front that flows into tight assertive tannins. Finishes clean and dry.
If you are curious about the other Meritage wines that won Virginia Governor’s Cup Awards see the complete list here .
- Central Virginia Region
- Northern Virginia Region
- Loudoun Wine Trail
- Monticello Wine Trail