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Meritage or "Summation" is a brand for red and white Bordeaux-style wines without infringing on the Bordeaux (France) region's legally protected designation of origin. Winemakers must license the Meritage trademark from its owner, the California-based Meritage Alliance. Member wineries are found principally in the United States, though increasingly elsewhere.
The Meritage Association was formed in 1988 by a small group of Napa Valley, California vintners increasingly frustrated by U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives regulations stipulating wines contain at least 75% of a specific grape to be labeled as that varietal. As interest grew in creating Bordeaux-style wines, which by their blended nature fail to qualify for varietal status, members sought to create a recognizable name for their high-quality blended wines.
In 1988, the association hosted a contest to conceive a proprietary name for these wines, receiving over 6,000 submissions. "Meritage", —a combination of merit and heritage, was selected and its coiner awarded two bottles of the first ten vintages of every wine licensed to use the brand.
By 1999 The Meritage Association had grown to 22 members. Shifting its focus from trademark policing to education and marketing resulted in swift growth. By 2003 the Association had over 100 members, including its first international participants.
In May 2009, The Meritage Association announced that it had changed its name to The Meritage Alliance. As of August 2009, the Alliance had over 250 members.
The Meritage agreement stipulates the blends that can be labeled "Meritage", a fee per case (currently $1.00, capped at $500.00 per vintage), and various labeling restrictions.
A red Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, or Carmenère, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend.
A white Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon or Muscadelle du Bordelais, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend.
Although not stipulated by the licensing agreement, the Meritage Alliance strongly recommends that wineries label only their best blend Meritage and limit production to no more than 25,000 cases.
Although many people, including many wine experts, have a tendency to Frenchify the word "Meritage" by pronouncing its last syllable with a "zh" sound, as in "garage," the Meritage Alliance specifically states that the word should be pronounced to rhyme with "heritage."