What is Meritage Wine? - Ultimate Guide (History, Background, Features)

What is Meritage Wine?

This post was updated on: August 1, 2020

What is Meritage Wine?

Whether you’ve heard of it or not, if you’re interested in wine, this high-quality drink is an important part of modern wine culture. 

Meritage Red Wine

Meritage, pronounced like ‘heritage’, is a type of wine that has soared in popular since its creation in the 1980s.

Whether you’ve heard the name and you want to know more, or you’re new to the whole concept, our guide covers everything you need to know about the unique wine style.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the origins of Meritage, how it’s made, its distinguishing features, and how to enjoy the drink to its full potential.

Read on to find out everything you could wish to know about Meritage wine, and maybe pick up a bottle next time you’re at your local liquor store.

The Origins of Meritage Wine

‘Meritage’ is a general term used to describe wine made from specific grapes selected from Bordeaux varieties.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, California’s winemakers were making waves around the globe with their delicious vintages, and as a result, Americans were increasingly being taken more seriously as vintners.

During this time, a group of American winemakers decided to create their own vintage using only the very best French Bordeaux grape varieties.

As blended reds became more and more popular, these enthusiasts realized the potential for creating something magnificent by combining several grape types.

grape types

So just what is Meritage wine, and how did it get its name? Meritage, which combines the word ‘merit’ with ‘heritage’ was created used red and white grapes labelled as ‘noble’.

Noble grape types are those deemed particularly high in quality; these are: Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Merlot.

At the time, and still to this day, Bordeaux is one of the world’s most famous and well-respected red blends, so American winemakers decided to give the French a run for their money, creating Meritage and even winning a competition with it.

Today, Meritage can be either red or white wine, is largely made in grapes from California vineyards, and typically should contain only the finest wine varietals - and only those that use Bordeaux grapes.

You can buy it in both your local liquor store and in artisan wine shops, and the word ‘Meritage’ continues to be associated with American winemaking and, above all, quality.

Next: Running low on red wine vinegar? Here are the best substitutes.

Features of Meritage Red Wine

Every Meritage is different depending on the choice and combination of vintages used to create it.

Traditionally associated with quality, Meritage wine is typically complex and rich in flavor, although the precise tasting notes vary from wine to another.

chardonnay grapes

Both red and white Meritage selections are known for their smoothness, richness and robust bodies.

Created using at least two noble grape varieties, they are typically complex and contain layers of aromas and tastes. In short, when you buy Meritage red wine or white wine, you are investing in quality.

Red Meritage is typically fresh with just enough acidity, and contain rich layers of earthiness and deep fruitiness.

They are typically dry and full-bodied. A classic white Meritage is fresh and dry, with a crisp edge. Both wines are ideal for pairing with food, but can be equally well enjoyed drunk alone.

How Much Does Meritage Cost?

Meritage wine encompasses a wide range of different vintages, and so the price varies wildly.

While there are many meritage bottles that cost hundreds of dollars, you can easily pick up a bottle of great Meritage for as little as $20.

napa's best meritage wines

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur who wants to add a great vintage to their collection, you’re buying a nice wine as a gift or a dinner party offering, or you’re simply looking to indulge on a weekend drink, Meritage wine is a great option for any occasion.

Next: Here’s a list of the best sweet red wines for $30 or less!

Meritage Storing and Aging

These wines vary widely, and so some are appropriate for aging while others are less so. Generally, though, both red and white Meritage wines lend themselves well to cellaring, and many of them improve with age.

Always check with your wine merchant and read information on the label regarding serving and storing.

In only a few decades, Meritage wines have taken off in a big way, and are arguably an important influencer on the global opinion of American wine.

Its association with quality and its differentiation from classic blend wine have made it a successful piece of branding that has impacted wine culture the world over.

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