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None of the information on Meritage presented here is correct.

Meritage is not just a California thing, nor is it an American thing. It did get it's origins in that due to American wine labeling most Bordeaux blends couldn't be labeled anything but Red Table Wine.

Meritage is primarily a trademark. It's licensed by the Meritage Association. Essentially the requirements are that you pay the very nominal fee (and send a couple of bottles off to the guy who won the contest to coin the term) and have a complying wine:

It must be blended from more than one of the traditional Bordeaux Varietals (Cab. Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec for reds, Sauv. Blanc, Semillon and Sauv Vert for whites).

Meritage is pronouced like heritage.

Information at:

www.meritagewine.com

I was at the Melting Pot in Reston and they had for some stupid reason decided that any domestic blend was a Meritage. None of the whites labeled as such were Meritage at all (all but one were Chardonnay blends, the other was a Riesling). One of the reds was a Zin.
There are a few wineries that put Meritage on the bottle without getting authorization (I know of two here in Virginia). When this is brought to the attention of the Meritage folks, they send them "the letter" informing them of the violation of the trademark.

It's got to be ignorance. The fee is only $1 per case (capped at $500 per year) plus 2 bottles of wine.
I like this definition from Wikipedia because it mentions the crucial 75% point....the most critical mark of winemakers frustration with federal regulations of varietal labeling. Many winemakers…believed the varietal requirement (the 75 percent rule) did not necessarily result in the highest quality wine from their vineyards. "Meritage" was coined to identify wines that represent the highest form of the winemaker's art, blending...”


The Meritage Association was formed in 1988 by a small group of Napa Valley, California vintners: Agustin Huneeus (then of Franciscan Winery, now of Quintessa Winery), Mitch Cosentino (Cosentino Winery), and Julie Garvey (Flora Springs Winery). These vintners, among others, were becoming increasingly frustrated by U.S. BATF regulations stipulating that a wine must contain at least 75% of a specific grape to be designated as that varietal on the label. As interest grew in creating blended Bordeaux-style wines, the members sought to create a recognizable name associated with high-quality blended wines, instead of merely labelling them as "Red Table Wine" (or "White Table Wine") or giving them proprietary names unique to the winery.

In 1988, the association hosted a contest to conceive of a name for these wines. They received over 6,000 submissions. Neil Edgar of Newark, California (subsequently relocated to Sacramento) won by suggesting Meritage—a combination of the words merit and heritage (and which rhymes with the latter.). As a reward for winning this contest, Mr. Edgar was awarded two bottles of the first ten vintages of every wine licensed to use the Meritage brand.

By 1999 The Meritage Association had grown to 22 members. They decided to shift the focus from policing their trademark to education and marketing. This resulted in swift growth for the association, which included over 100 members by 2003, including their first international members.

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