In my last post I extolled the merits of a 2005 Estancia Meritage. It struck me that many of the readers of this blog may not know exactly what a Meritage is. Briefly, a Meritage is a high quality blend modeled on French Bordeaux that was established in 1989 in the United States. It was an attempt to monitor and control the blending of wines. Most blended wines have one dominant wine that amounts to about 75% of the wine itself. But what about wines that don't possess such dominance? That's were Meritage (prounounced like heritage) comes in. A red Meritage is required to include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot but not in the 75% levels of traditional blends. These are all Bordeaux varieties. The wine must contain at least three of the wines I just mentioned. A white Meritage need only have Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
One of the great things about Meritage is that it doesn't have to be highly aged to be of excellent quality. You can purchase a good Meritage, go home, open it and enjoy it for the evening. In addition, only 25,000 cases of Meritage can be produced from a specific vineyard in any one year. This is an important quality control measure that helps distinguish Meritage from the ubiquitous "red table wine" sold across the country.
If you want to read more about Meritage, there is a good article in the Washington Post from 2004 containing a nice review of Meritage, its history and present circumstances: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57082-2004Sep28.html.