Meritage Wine Facts and Pairings
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Meritage Wine Facts and Pairings

Meritage wines are Bordeaux-style California red and white wines that work well with beef, lamb, pasta, and game meats.

Meritage wines are full-bodied, very high quality red and white wines made Bourdeaux-style from a blend of specific grapes on American soil, mostly in California. 

Meritage wines were introduced in 1988 by a group of winemakers who wanted to be able to produce and sell high-end wines consisting of a combination of varietals.  Formerly, a wine had to be composed of at least 75% of a varietal to have that varietal on the label. Their argument was that it was possible to produce a very high quality wine from a blend of different varietals. 

They formed the Meritage Association, now known as the Meritage Alliance, and provide the licensing requirements, rules and regulations, and dues and fee structure for Meritage producers. 

The term Meritage originated from a contest sponsored by the Meritage Alliance and comes from the combination of the two words "merit" and "heritage." Vintners must be licensed and pay a fee to the Meritage Alliance, now between 200 and 300 strong, to be able to use this term on their bottles and marketing materials.  Winemakers must ensure that the Meritage wines contain a combination of at least two of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere, Petite Verdot, Gros Verdot, and St. McCaire for the reds and Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Muscadet for the whites.  No single varietal can compose more than 90%  of the blend.  If any of the wines contain even one other grape varietal other than those designated, they would not be able to claim the Meritage name. The release of a vintner's particular brand of Meritage must be limited to no more than 25,000 cases.

Meritage wines work well with many foods and pairing these wines can depend on your own personal taste.  The reds can best be served with goat cheese, broiled or grilled lamb, steaks, prime rib and game meats. The whites can be paired successfully with pasta, pheasant, wild duck, crab, and lobster.   

The main advantates of Meritage wines is that consumers do not have to buy an expensive French wine to enjoy a Bordeaux-style wine.  Also, Meritage wines age well but do not necessarily require several years of aging, making them available to wine lovers that much more quickly and then for years to come. 

Some examples of Meritage wines available on the market include Estancia Meritage Red Paso Robles 2007, Cosentino The Poet Meritage 2003, and Geyser Peak Reserve Alexandre Meritage 2001.    

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