Monday, October 17, 2005

Napa Red Table Wine or Meritage?

Napa - After attending a fantastic seminar call "The Art of Blending" - how they make Magnificat (2002 - $45) at Franciscan. Where you get to blend the five noble Bordeaux grapes from the '03 barrels and make up your own blend and then compare it against the '02 Magnificat.

We said why not compare it against the legendary - Opus One makers of a "2002 Napa Red Table Wine - $165".

I asked the guy working at Opus why "Meritage" didn't appear on the label. Oddly he didn't have a good explanation (or good accent), so I asked my friends at Meritage Association.

My question: "Why doesn't Opus One use Meritage on their label and is it really a Meritage?"

Hello Brian,

Opus One got started a good 15 years before the Meritage Association was born, and sees no need to define itself further (by using 'meritage' on the label, for example) -- Phelps Insignia and Opus pretty much defined the category for quite a while. They are indeed Meritage blends, but they choose not to say so on their labels.
The Meritage Association got started in 1988 when more and more vintners were making wonderful blends that didn't qualify for varietal labeling (min.75% varietal required). Even less well known Meritage blends -- even those who have joined the Meritage Association -- sometimes choose not to label their wines "Meritage." It is a useful category name that is helpful to consumers, so I for one am always grateful when a winery provides the information on their label. Hope this helps?

Michaela Rodeno
Chair, Meritage Association

Thanks Michaela it helps a lot. Let's refresh you on some of the merits of Red Meritage:

  • Must be a blend of at least two of the following - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and/or the rarer Carmenere, Gros Verdot and St. Macaire.
  • No single grape may make up more than 90% of a Meritage wine.
  • By law, a wine labeled as a specific varietal must be composed of 75% or more of that grape variety.
Oddly enough the Opus One 2002 Napa Red Table Wine was a blend of the 5 main Bordeaux grapes and was 86% Cabernet Sauvignon - so by definition they could call it a Cabernet Sauvignon or Meritage because it qualifies for both.

For more information on the "Art of Blending - Magnifcat" seminar ($25)

Insider's tip - If you love Franciscan Magnifcat - you can buy the 2000 - under the name of Winemaker's Reserve -$25 - great value - the only year that Merlot was the leading grape for their Meritage Blend.