by Fred McMillin
for February 4, 1998

The Meritage Debate

"To Meritage or Not to Meritage"


"I am not convinced that [making Meritage blends] is a game worth playing. If you have great Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, I'm not sure blending in a whole lot of other stuff makes for a better wine."

...West Coast Wine Authority Dan Berger

"In our tasting, the Meritage wines exhibited the complexity, finesse and balance usually associated with high quality Bordeaux wines."

...Steve Pitcher, San Francisco's Vintners Club

The Rest of the Story

Over two centuries ago Bordeaux vintners learned to soften their robust, tannic Cabernet Sauvignon by adding substantial amounts of other Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In the 1980s California vintners were doing the same. But there was a big problem. If the blend contained less than 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, it could not use that best-selling name. Hence, these blends were given a new name. "Merit" and "heritage" were combined to form "Meritage," a blend limited to Bordeaux varietals. (You'll find no Zinfandel or Pinot Noir in a Meritage, since neither originated in Bordeaux.) If you want to conduct your own comparison, here's my Meritage entry...I checked back nine years and this is the best of them all.

The Wine

1994 Langtry Meritage Red Wine, Napa Valley
By the Guenoc Winery, Lake County, CA.Composition—46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Petit Verdot, 16% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, etc.
Contact—Co-Winegrower Karen Melander-Magoon, (707) 987-2385
Rating (0 to 100)—The 19 competitors averaged 53, the Langtry hit 90!


I served the 1993 to a physician friend of mine, who drinks very little wine. After one long sip, he ORDERED A CASE!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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