The word of the week is Meritage.

The word of the week is Meritage.

Who: Founding members included Cosentino, Flora Springs, and Quintessa among others. Over 444 international members including Franciscan Oakville Estates, Gallo of Sonoma, Dry Creek, Lyeth, Fenn Valley, Dr. Konatantin Frank, Anne de Joyeuse Winery, Inniskillin, Efrat Wine Cellars, Ch. Chuditch & Bod. San Rafael.


What: A Meritage is a wine that is created using “noble” Bordeaux red or white grapes. Meritage wines attempt to emulate the spirit and style of high-quality Bordeaux wines. There is an inherent acknowledgement of the art of blending to achieve the winemaker’s vision of the wine. The term Meritage is a registered trademark of the Meritage Alliance and should, ideally, be used only when referring to wines produced by dues-paying members of the Meritage Alliance. It is common practice to refer to many blended wines as Meritage wines regardless of their affiliation to the group. In this sense the Alliance has achieved one of its primary goals: The creation of a distinct and recognized class for blended wines.


A. The Meritage Association is founded in 1988 by a group of American vintners to identify quality, handcrafted wines made from “noble” Bordeaux grapes in the Bordeaux tradition.

B. With only 22 members in 1999 the group shifts its focus from trademark policing to education and marketing.

C. 2005 sees 100+ members and its first Canadian members are accepted.

D. 2009 sees name change from Meritage Association to Meritage Alliance.

E. 2012 sees Bravo TV’s Top Chef tape a segment tasting through Alliance members’ wines.

F. 2013 Meritage Alliance celebrates its 25th anniversary.

G. 2023 sees 444 wineries from 33 states & 20 wineries from 6 other countries.


Where: The majority of member wineries are in the United States, specifically California, New York, Oregon & Virginia. International membership is rising.


Why: By law, American wines are labeled by the varietal that comprises at least 75% of that wine. Prior to the creation of Meritage there was no label status (other than “red or white table wine”) for blended wines. Labels like “table wine” and “reserve” either did not accurately convey the quality of the wine or had become so abused as to become meaningless for the consumer and vintners.

How: Red Meritage wines must be made from a blend of two or more of the grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carménère. White Meritage wines must be made from a blend of two or more of the grapes: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle du Bordolais. For either, no single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.

Generalizations: It is implicit, but not regulated, that wineries label only the blend that they consider to be their best as Meritage and limit production to no more than 25,000 cases. Case fees and labeling restrictions are applied. The invented word Meritage is a compound of merit and heritage. Pronounced as it was intended, it rhymes with heritage. A faux-French pronunciation is affected. At its core, a Meritage wine reflects both the quality of its grapes (meritorious) and the ancient art of blending (heritage).