"Meritage." Has an elegant, Frenchy-sounding ring to it, right? Well, not so fast. Meritage (rhymes with "heritage") is actually a proprietary term, trademarked by the California-based Meritage Alliance. It's a term used to denote non-French Bordeaux-style wine blends and was created so as not to infringe on Bordeaux's legally protected designation of origin. That's why you'll never find American wine called "Bordeaux," even though it might be made exactly like French Bordeaux.
Red Meritage must contain at least two of the following: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenere, but no single varietal can make up more the 90 percent of the blend. Got it?
A good, economical Meritage to try is Sterling Vintner's Collection Meritage 2009. It normally sells here for $13.99, but is on sale this month for $10.99, so it's a good time to sample some.
The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (66%), Merlot (24%), Malbec (7%) and Petit Verdot (3%).
Sterling Vintner's Collection Meritage 2009 is aged in oak, and there are definitely oaky notes in the wine, along with vanilla from the barrel aging. The fruit is fairly robust, with concentrated cherry, blackberry and plum flavors, adorned with hints of spice: cinnamon, primarily. All-in-all, this is an easy-drinking, versatile wine that is a good, inexpensive introduction to American Meritage.