; The marvels of eritag e
provide, where the end result is greater than the sum of its parts. Winemakers seek to match the strengths of each component (ripe- ness, acidity, flavor, structure, aro- matics, etc.) and integrate them into a single wine. Bordeaux winemakers have known for centuries that the classic five red and three white grape varieties are suitable for their climate and growing conditions. Cabernet Sauvignon, which has flourished in many wine regions throughout the world, is full of black fruit, high acidity and high tannin levels, and, with aging, can develop cedar, tobacco and earth notes. Merlot, which has also done well internationally, is more subtle and softer, and offers more red-fruit character. Cabernet Franc can be spicy and often adds floral notes of violets. Malbec is deeply colored, with concentrated fruit, and Petit Verdot can also add rich color with firm tannins and some spiciness.
In dry white blends, Sauvignon Blanc
is the decided workhorse, with bright, tart
acidity and flavors of citrus and minerals.
Semillon is much lighter in acids and
blends peach, melon and tropical flavors
As for sweet white wine, Semillon is the
predominant grape varietal, followed by
Sauvignon Blanc. Muscadelle is a minor player
that can be used to add perfumed aromatics.
Old World traditions for wonderful wines
By Annette Alvarez-Peters
I’VE HEARD IT many
times: “What is a Meritage?
What grapes are used in
Meritage? And how do you
pronounce Meritage?” These
are good questions—and
their answers offer insights
to anybody interested in fine
First, the basics. Meritage rhymes with
“heritage.” Meritage wines are red and white
blends made using Old World traditions and
practices. In that sense, they’re a testament to
the great wines of Bordeaux, with a wonderful
New World character.
Featured at Costco
You’ll find these Meritage and
other fine blends at select Costcos.
Kirkland Signature™ Rutherford Meritage,
Napa Valley, California Item 999309
Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Claret,
California Item #211159
Hedges Family Estate Three Vineyards, Red
Mountain, Washington Item #63412
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo
Valley, Chile Item #895542
Leo Vinis, Bordeaux, France
The practices of Bordeaux
The story begins in 1988, when a small
group of California vintners sought to develop
an association dedicated to promoting wines
made in the Bordeaux tradition of blending
specific grape varieties. They conducted a
competition to come up with a proprietary
name for their wines. Meritage was created
from the words merit and heritage, and the 20
members of the new association pressed on.
Strict guidelines were established: At least
two of the traditional Bordeaux grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet
Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot) must be used
to create a blend, with no one grape exceeding
90 percent of the total blend. Likewise, white
Meritage blends are limited to using Sauvignon
Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.
As in Bordeaux, the percentage of any
given grape in a Meritage blend can vary from
vintage to vintage, depending on the crop that
year. And also like Bordeaux, a Meritage wine
emphasizes the producer and the region or
appellation where the wine originates. In con-
trast, New World wines are typically labeled
by grape variety.
The beauty of blending
So why all the fuss and focus on blends?
Whether they use grapes from different sections of a vineyard, different vineyards or different varieties, winemakers blend to create
the best possible outcome that nature can
The fruit of their labors
Most producers approach quality winemaking in the same manner as do the great
châteaus of Bordeaux: selecting the proper
grape variety for a specific vineyard plot;
working tirelessly in the vineyards to produce
low yields with high flavor, sugar and acid
concentrations; carefully fermenting and
aging the wines; and delicately blending the
various lots to reach the ultimate expression
of the vineyards, climate and vintage.
As you comb through the wine selection
at Costco, you’ll know that any red or white
wine labeled “Meritage” is produced by a winery that has committed to the highest standards of winemaking tradition. It will surely
be a quality wine to be enjoyed with food,
family and friends. Cheers! C
Annette Alvarez-Peters oversees Costco’s wine, beer and spirits program.
AUGUST 2010 ;e Costco Connection 53