For this Grape of the Night gathering the selected varietal was Meritage or Claret. Since we sampled French Bordeaux wines at our October GOTN, I thought that it would be interesting to venture to the New World as a comparison. It was interesting there were no labels that had the name Claret all were Meritage.
Claret is an unofficial designation, or name, that Britain uses for red wines originating from Bordeaux, France. So with that said, it has not stopped many American wineries, such as Bell, from using the name Claret on their wine labels. Meritage, actually pronounced MEH-rih-tij (rhyming with heritage), is often mispronounced as if it were French (meh-rih-TAAAGGHHHE), myself included. We all know that I love French wines.
Meritage is a trademark used by US vintners that produce French Bordeaux style wines. Some interesting facts about the qualifications to be termed Meritage is that the wine cannot be mass produced and the winery must produce under 25,000 cases. Meritage wine must be a blend of two or more of the red Bordeaux varieties with no single variety can compose more than 75% of the blend. The grapes that can be used in a Meritage are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere. It also must be high-end. This fact sends a lot of questions as to what is meant by high end since the term “high-end” is not defined it leaves a lot of latitude for interpretation. The patent may rest on whether the wine states that it is a Meritage on the bottle or that the blend on the label is recognized as a Meritage but is not stated as such. Meritage wines will taste much like the Bordeaux wines of France except for the nuances added by the terroir and processes of each country. One should expect blackberry, cherry, spices, chocolate, and vanilla depending on the varietals chosen for the blend. The key Bordeaux flavors of cigar box, rich fruits, with a hefty feel should also be found. Meritages taste best when served at 64 degrees Fahrenheit which is also true of Bordeaux wines.
Here are the wines provided by the members for tasting at GOTN Meritage/Claret:
· 2005 Bell Sonnett (Napa)
Aroma: Light earth, spice and light fruit
Taste: Smooth, red fruits, and soft tannins
· 2008 Chappellet Cuvee (Napa)
Aroma: Spiced fruit
Taste: Creamy cherry
· 2007 Robert Sinskey POV Pinot of View (Napa)
Aroma: Lightly spiced and red fruits
Taste: Red fruits and slightly creamy
· 2009 DAOU Micro (Paso Robles)
Aroma: Chocolate, cherry and spice
Taste: Red fruits, jammy and slight tobacco
· 2007 Estancia (Paso Robles)
Aroma: Alcohol, licorice and medicinal
Taste: Cherry, short finish and licorice
· 2008 Avenel Cellars Meritage (Napa)
Aroma: Red fruit
Taste: Red fruit (slightly sweet), Smokey, very light tobacco on finish
I found this GOTN quite interesting. Remembering the old world earthiness of the Bordeaux wines from France and now opening up everyone’s palate to a New World Wine where the fruits are much more dominant and upfront. I really enjoyed this meeting and I want to thank everyone for coming and bringing such unique wines. This is what wines are all about. Next, we are going to challenge the Malbec varietal. This wine varietal is grown in many countries and will provide us with differences due to the various terroirs. As always, I want to thank the Valencia Wine Company for their service. I would like to especially thank Vic for pouring and tending to our needs while also taking care of customers that were not a part of our group. I can’t wait until our next GOTN and as always, look for those unique Malbecs for us to sample, analyze and enjoy.