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What is a Meritage Wine?

by David on September 1, 2010

With the release of the 2005 ÆROS®, in the spring of 2008, we introduced our first Meritage in 25 years of wine making. What is a Meritage? The Meritage Alliance was formed to distinguish high-quality, hand-crafted blends wines from ordinary, generic ones and, additionally, limits the blending to the traditional Bordeaux varieties which include these reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Carmenere and the extremely obscure St. Macaire and Gros Verdot; and these whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Sauvignon Vert.
Why is this necessary? In post-repeal America, we began to associate quality with the varietal designation and common blends, such as California “Burgundy” or “Table Wine”, were usually simple, every-day wines. The name Meritage (pronounced like “heritage”) is meant to communicate that this is no ordinary blend.

In order to use the Meritage designation the winery must be a member of the Meritage Alliance and adhere to the regulations. For a Meritage red, the wine must be a blend of two or more of the red Bordeaux varieties with no single variety composing more than 90% of the blend. Meritage whites are less common but the requirements are the same: At least two of the white Bordeaux varieties must be used with no one variety making up more than 90 percent of the blend.

AEROS MeritageIsn’t a varietal a better wine? Is a solo violin performance superior to a symphony?

Much of the art of wine is in the blend, and varietal wines come with regulations and limitations. American law requires a minimum of 75% of the named grape for a varietal wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. If the winemaker is trying to create an expression that is distinctly Cabernet Sauvignon, this seems to be the way to go, and the result is one clear, lovely voice. However, if the same winemaker has set out to create a harmonious symphony of flavors, regardless of varietal character, he may find these regulations tie his hands artistically. What if the overall blend is more captivating when it’s composed of 40% Cabernet Franc this year? In that case he may not use the name Cabernet Sauvignon, but the Meritage designation is appropriate or he can create a proprietary name such as ÆROS.

The inspiration to produce our ÆROS:

Meritage coincided with the need to replant our disease-weakened estate vineyard. We took the opportunity to do a thorough study of the property, which revealed that the soils and meso-climate form the quintessential site for a classic mix of red Bordeaux varieties. Geoff Gorsuch, our Winemaker, meticulously matched the varieties, clones and rootstocks to the appropriate terroir within the property, with the help of two of the top viticultural consultants in Napa Valley. The best Bordeaux clones were planted – three of Cabernet Sauvignon, two of Merlot, two of Cabernet Franc and one of Petit Verdot. With the first harvest of the new vineyard, Geoff realized that the reward for his painstaking effort was beyond his greatest hopes: Fruit of exceptional flavor intensity and character – and select lots of wine with the elusive expression and singular style that merit the rare ÆROS designation.

Purchase the ÆROS® Meritage

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