Meritage: An Alliance for Quality Blends

Recent scuttlebutt about Meritage has people wondering where this relatively new wine originated.


Recent scuttlebutt about Meritage has people wondering where this relatively new wine originated. Meritage is a red or white wine blend handcrafted from specific Bordeaux grape varieties, typically the best of its vintage. It's been referred to as "American Bordeaux." It's quickly increasing in popularity and is one of the fastest-growing wine categories in the United States.

So, where does Meritage come from? In 1988, a group of California vintners banded together to create a recognizable propriety name for their high-quality blends. United States label laws restrict grape varietals from being noted on a wine label unless the wine consists of at least 75 percent of the varietal. Often, wines without a varietal listed on the label suffer from a perception that they are of lesser quality. On the contrary, many winemakers believe the Old World art of blending can result in the highest quality wines. The vintners of the alliance wanted a way to note these wines to consumers. Thus, Meritage was born.

Meritage gets its name from combining "merit" with "heritage." "Merit" represents the quality of the grapes and "heritage" reflects the Old World tradition of blending. Though many people, including many wine experts, often mispronounce Meritage, giving it a French-sounding ending that rhymes with "garage," Meritage actually rhymes with "heritage." (At a recent wine tasting, I was incorrectly "corrected" four times by wine pourers — and even a winemaker!)

To produce a Meritage, alliance members pay a fee per case and follow strict labeling rules. Producers are highly encouraged to limit production to 25,000 cases and use only their best blends.

A red Meritage is a blend of two or more of the following varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Carménère. A white Meritage is a combination of two or more of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, or Muscadelle du Bordelais. Neither can consist of more than 90 percent of any one varietal. The result? Typically, these blends have great aging potential while being very enjoyable in their youth.

Today, the Meritage Alliance has 250 members. In Michigan, five wineries have joined the alliance and are producing Meritage: Cherry Creek Cellars of Albion, Fenn Valley Vineyards of Fennville, Leelanau Wine Cellars of Omena, Lemon Creek Winery of Berrien Springs, and St. Julian Winery of Paw Paw. Having tasted all of them myself, I've recently become a huge fan of Meritage … no matter how you pronounce it!

Lorri Hathaway is co-author of the award-winning From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries and The History of Michigan Wines. Learn more and get autographed books at
Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

The Sentimental History of One of Leelanau Peninsula’s Newest Wineries

A matriarch’s memory drives Amoritas Vineyards

Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival Makes its Move

Crowds drive event’s switch to larger grounds

Michigan Wine, Remixed

Local wines come to downtown Detroit in rebooted annual event

To Market, to Market

Michigan Wine & Cider Festival at Eastern Market May 24

'Grazie Mille’ For the Memories

Adventures abound in Italy with Michigan winemaker, grape growers
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Review: Testa Barra Wows with Contemporary Dishes
    The Macomb Township restaurant serves Italian fare that is on par with the surging Detroit food...
  2. Exploring Metro Detroit’s Tiki Trend
    Mutiny Bar and Lost River serve up island vacations with every drink
  3. Michigan-Made, Mother Nature-Approved Tools for Your Kitchen
    Ditch disposables and opt for reusable products
  4. A Deeper Look into the Racial and Ethnic Tensions Dividing Metro Detroit
    From the city to the suburbs, existing segregation could be hindering the region’s progress
  5. Every Day is Throwback Thursday at This Roseville Steakhouse
    Mr. Paul's Chophouse has remained consistently delicious for more than 50 years
  6. 3 Eateries that Focus on People, Profit, and the Planet
    These triple bottom line businesses are part of Detroit’s FoodLab organization
  7. A Look at the Inexplicable Exclusion of Detroit Tigers’ Lou Whitaker from the Baseball Hall of Fame
    Writer Michael Betzhold investigates the Major League slip-up
  8. Q&A: Nancy Barr, Curator of Photography at the Detroit Institute of Arts
    Plus, information about the DIA’s upcoming exhibit, Lost & Found
  9. This Vegan Catering Company Celebrates the ‘Natural Beauty of Food’
    Plus, tips on how to create your own photo-worthy grazing board
  10. Your Guide to Environmentally Friendly Organizations in Metro Detroit
    These 10 local businesses are paving the way for a healthier and happier planet