cuvee and meritage?

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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Thomas » Thu Jan 18, 2007 10:46 am

Peter May wrote:
No doubt in 20 years or so, Bob will be using this as evidence that Meritage never meant more than a blend. :)


Peter,

You may be prescient on that one. As I read the Meritage Association Web site, the only thing that makes Meritage more than a blend is the requirement that limits the use of certain grape varieties. Yet all it takes to call a wine Meritage is a blend that includes a minimum of any two named varieties, with a maximum of 90% of any one variety.

No harvest parameters, no alcohol limits, no wood treatment prescriptions--nothing but "these are the grapes you can use."

I don't get the point, and I just posted my feelings on vinofictions.com.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Jan 18, 2007 12:50 pm

The license agreement would defeat that argument, Peter, at least today.

1. Red wine may be designated as Meritage(R) if it is made from a blend of two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, St. Macaire, Gros Verdot, and Carmenere. No single variety may make up more than 90 percent of the blend.

2. White wine may be designated as Meritage(R) if it is made from a blend of two or more of the following varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Vert. No single variety may make up more than 90 percent of the blend.

:)
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Peter May » Thu Jan 18, 2007 1:55 pm

Bob Ross wrote:The license agreement would defeat that argument, Peter, at least today.


Oh, Bob how very American you can be. :)

even in America I've seen the word used by a winery to describe their blend of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Barbera and Pinotage
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Isaac » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:07 pm

Victorwine wrote:This discussion brings to mind the short but informative history of Joseph Phelep’s Insignia wine written by Paul Lukas, in his book The Great Wines of America. Back in the 70’s the US federal government rules and regulations required that at least 51% of a wine come from a single variety in order for the wine to be labeled as such. (In 1983, the federal requirement was raised to 75%). Joseph Phelep’s vision or goal was to produce the “best wine” he could. So instead of being hampered by rules and regulations, he gave his winemakers the green light and freedom to use whatever percentages they judged would produce the “best wine”. In other words use different grape varieties in different proportions depending on the vintage. The whole idea behind this was, to pay more attention to overall composition than to individual components. (“Old World” thinking- “assemblage”). The term “Insignia” came to Joseph Phelep when he was shaving one morning.

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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Maria Samms » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:09 pm

Maybe I haven't read the answers as thoroughly as I should, because the answer could be here...but I was wondering what kind of prestige goes with the use of the word "Meritage" on your wine label? It's seems a hefty price to pay dues just to use a term...can you have a "Bordeaux style blend" without using the word Meritage?

Bob - I would also be very interested in reading your post, "A study in 'Claret'".
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Isaac » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:10 pm

Peter May wrote:No doubt in 20 years or so, Bob will be using this as evidence that Meritage never meant more than a blend. :)
Personally, I find it - what? annoying? offensive? - that the Wine Library is violating the Meritage Association's copyright in this way.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Isaac » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:12 pm

Peter May wrote:
Bob Ross wrote:The license agreement would defeat that argument, Peter, at least today.


Oh, Bob how very American you can be. :)

even in America I've seen the word used by a winery to describe their blend of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Barbera and Pinotage
However, it is illegal for them to do so.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Peter May » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:23 pm

Maria Samms wrote: ..can you have a "Bordeaux style blend" without using the word Meritage?


Well, we come back to the start of the answers.

You cannot use those words on any wine sold in the EU*, and with the ongoing international trade agreements it is likely that it will not be allowed in the US at some time in the future. So that was the reason that that the word Meritage was invented -- in order to have a description that didn't use the word Bordeaux.

*unless they are made in Bordeaux
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:30 pm

Maria,

"Meritage" is simply a registered trademark. You need to buy a license to use it (up to $500 which really isn't much) and make your wines in a certain way. Bob's post above indicates the blends.

Prestige? I guess the Meritage Association thinks there's some prestige, but only the quality of the wines will bring that prestige, if any, over time.

One of the reasons why the term "Meritage" was coined was because of the labeling rules in the United States, i.e. you had to have 75% of a certain grape variety in a wine to name the wine after that grape variety. And, it seems, in the United States wines named after grape varieties are held in higher esteem than those that aren't. Now, a blend of any sort, not just a Bordeaux style blend, might have less than 75% of a given grape variety in it which means it has to be called red or white wine or red or white table wine or use some proprietary name. That blend might be great wine, better than something called Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. And, of course, that blend could stink. In any event, the labeling rules put winemakers who blend at a perceived disadvantage in the marketplace. What to do? Well, let's invent a special name and special rules and make the blends look special. And that's what the Meritage Association did. It's an attempt at elevating the prestige of blends (in this case Bordeaux style) because sometimes blends are just better ... as one sees in Bordeaux. Even though there are commercial considerations at work, I don't doubt their sincerity in promoting blends. Coro Mendocino is another such association.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Jan 18, 2007 2:35 pm

"even in America I've seen the word used by a winery to describe their blend of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Barbera and Pinotage."

Interesting Peter -- looks like the Association isn't protecting the integrity of its mark very well.

Last time I looked at this subject, there were high hopes for improvement in quality, and the avowed purpose of the mark was to reduce confusion. There's a really good description of what they hoped to achieve originally at http://www.answers.com/topic/meritage-1

I had missed the news that in "1999 the Meritage Association had grown to 22 members, and decided to shift the focus from policing their trademark to education and marketing. This resulted in swift growth for the association, which included over 100 members by 2003, including their first international members." Thanks for catching me up, Peter.

Incidentally, I spoke with Neil Edgar, the fellow who came up with the name -- he won a contest with over 6,000 entrants. If I remember well he was to receive two bottles of wine for ten years from each of the members. It might be fun to give him a call and see what he thinks of the wine he's receiving these days.

The phone book lists a "Neil Edgar" in Elk Grove, California -- at the time he won he lived in Newark and later Sacramento, California. Wonder if he's the same guy.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Thomas » Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:11 pm

Bob Ross wrote:"even in America I've seen the word used by a winery to describe their blend of Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Barbera and Pinotage."

Interesting Peter -- looks like the Association isn't protecting the integrity of its mark very well.

Last time I looked at this subject, there were high hopes for improvement in quality, and the avowed purpose of the mark was to reduce confusion. There's a really good description of what they hoped to achieve originally at http://www.answers.com/topic/meritage-1

I had missed the news that in "1999 the Meritage Association had grown to 22 members, and decided to shift the focus from policing their trademark to education and marketing. This resulted in swift growth for the association, which included over 100 members by 2003, including their first international members." Thanks for catching me up, Peter.

Incidentally, I spoke with Neil Edgar, the fellow who came up with the name -- he won a contest with over 6,000 entrants. If I remember well he was to receive two bottles of wine for ten years from each of the members. It might be fun to give him a call and see what he thinks of the wine he's receiving these days.

The phone book lists a "Neil Edgar" in Elk Grove, California -- at the time he won he lived in Newark and later Sacramento, California. Wonder if he's the same guy.


Bob,

If they still send him wine, they have his address--oh wait, ten years, that's over with by now.

Anyway, I still take issue with the whole thing as it is today. Only two requirements, neither of which assure us of anything--really.

Minimum two grapes from the prescribed list of grapes and potential for one of them making up as much as 90% of the blend.

If they are trying to promote the "art of blending," I don't see how the above accomplishes it.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Bob Ross » Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:23 pm

Thomas, I think it's the first ten years after a winery joins the Association; "As a reward for winning this contest, Mr. Edgar was awarded two bottles of the first ten vintages of every wine licensed to use the Meritage brand."

In any event, I agree completely with your critique. A few years ago I thought this was a neat way to get around the labeling restriction and perhaps improve quality. Thanks to Peter and to you, it's now just another bit of puffery to ignore -- I don't see any benefit to the consumer at all.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Dave Erickson » Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:30 pm

Peter, you gotta come to America so you can see all the "burgundy," "champagne," "chablis blanc," and other wines made in California that are sold under French place names. Why do they do it? Because the wines are cheap, sold in jugs, and the names supposedly make them seem more upmarket than they are.

I reserve a special place of contempt in my heart for the Gallo people, who still perpetrate these frauds under the "Livingston Cellars" label while at the same time promoting their upmarket "Gallo of Sonoma" varietal wines.

[img]http://www.livingstoncellars.com/OurWines/image/Bottles/BRG.jpg[/img]
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Dave Erickson » Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:32 pm

Dave Erickson wrote:Peter, you gotta come to America so you can see all the "burgundy," "champagne," "chablis blanc," and other wines made in California that are sold under French place names. Why do they do it? Because the wines are cheap, sold in jugs, and the names supposedly make them seem more upmarket than they are.

I reserve a special place of contempt in my heart for the Gallo people, who still perpetrate these frauds under the "Livingston Cellars" label while at the same time promoting their upmarket "Gallo of Sonoma" varietal wines.

For example: Livingston "California Burgundy" which is already a misnomer, and which isn't even made from pinot noir.

[img]http://www.livingstoncellars.com/OurWines/image/Bottles/BRG.jpg[/img]
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Maria Samms » Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:54 pm

Dave Erickson wrote:For example: Livingston "California Burgundy" which is already a misnomer, and which isn't even made from pinot noir.


Wow Dave...I always found it strange and wrong that these jug and boxed wines are called "Burgundy" or "Chablis"...but I had NO idea that they didn't even use Pinot Noir grapes in their Burgundy!! Do you know what kind of grapes they are? I am surprised they would even be allowed to do that!
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Peter May » Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:15 am

Maria Samms wrote: Wow Dave...I always found it strange and wrong that these jug and boxed wines are called "Burgundy" or "Chablis"...but I had NO idea that they didn't even use Pinot Noir grapes in their Burgundy!! Do you know what kind of grapes they are? I am surprised they would even be allowed to do that!


Whatever wines or grapes are cheap. In the 70's Paul Masson 'Hearty Burgundy' (what a contradiction in terms) had Zinfandel in it. BTW, I liked it.

That's the problem with the misuse of names. Thomas pooh-poohs 'Meritage' saying it means nothing, but it does mean a blend from a limited range of varieties, unlike 'claret' which in the US can be made from anything, or US 'champagne' which can be made from anything and the bubbles introduced by any method.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Peter May » Sat Jan 20, 2007 11:19 am

Dave Erickson wrote:Peter, you gotta come to America so you can see all the "burgundy," "champagne," "chablis blanc," and other wines made in California that are sold under French place names. [/img]


Been there, seen it and drunk it. I remember when restaurant house wines were Burgundy, Chablis and Pink Chablis.

I was in Los Angeles a few years ago drinking locally made 'chianti' while reading in the paper about legal actions being taken by California winemakers against a Chinese wine whose name in Chinese characters when pronounced sounded like 'Napa'. How I smiled :)
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Bob Ross » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:24 pm

"... unlike 'claret' which in the US can be made from anything ..."

The California clarets of which you write, Peter, may have been inspired, at least in part, by English clarets of the early to mid-nineteenth century.

A history and description of modern wines, by Cyrus Redding, published 1833, pages 328-29:

"It cannot be denied that the wines of Bordeaux, called "claret" in this country, though not adulterated like the wines of Portugal, still suffer great injury before they are considered fit for the English market. It has been thought necessary to give the pure Bordeaux growths a resemblance to the wines of Portugal, in some respect, in consequence of the false taste which has been give by the use of legislated port, thus one mischief treads upon the heels of another. Bordeaux wine in England and in Bordeaux scarcely resemble each other. The merchants are obliged to "work" the wines before they are shipped, or, in other words, to mingle stronger wines with them, such as Hermitage, or Cahors, which is destructive almost wholly of the bouquet, colour, and aroma of the original wine. So much are the merchants sensible of this, that they are obliged to give perfume to the wine, thus mixed, by artificial means, such as orris root and similar things. Raspberry brandy is sometimes employed, in minute quantities, for the same purpose, and does very well as a substitute in England, though any Frenchman conversant with these wines would instantly discover the deception. The perfume is sensibly different from that given by nature. These operations cause the clarets of England to be wines justly denominated impure, though not injurious to the constitution. There is nothing in them which does not come from the grape. It is only encouraging a coarseness of taste, which, after all, is but matter of fancy, while wholesomer wines cannot be drank. When old, claret is apt to turn of brick-red colour; this arises solely from miningling it with more potent wine."

It must be noted, though, that there is a tradition of a purer form of California claret, indeed an American claret, very well established and honored still.

Regards, Bob

PS: I haven't yet found the second edition of Redding's book, but the OED quotes it as one of the cornerstones of its definition of "claret", and to similar effect:

1836 C. REDDING Hist. Mod. Wines iii. (ed. 2) 53: There is no pure wine in France like that which is designated claret in England. This wine is a mixture of Bordeaux with Benicarlo, or with some full wine of France. Clairet wines..signify those which are..rose-coloured.

The third edition of 1851 is at hand, and to similar import.

B.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Thomas » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:28 pm

Peter May wrote:
Maria Samms wrote: Wow Dave...I always found it strange and wrong that these jug and boxed wines are called "Burgundy" or "Chablis"...but I had NO idea that they didn't even use Pinot Noir grapes in their Burgundy!! Do you know what kind of grapes they are? I am surprised they would even be allowed to do that!


Whatever wines or grapes are cheap. In the 70's Paul Masson 'Hearty Burgundy' (what a contradiction in terms) had Zinfandel in it. BTW, I liked it.

That's the problem with the misuse of names. Thomas pooh-poohs 'Meritage' saying it means nothing, but it does mean a blend from a limited range of varieties, unlike 'claret' which in the US can be made from anything, or US 'champagne' which can be made from anything and the bubbles introduced by any method.


Peter, Peter,

You are clinging to what had been intended but what had not been followed through ;) I would not pooh-pooh Meritage if it had meaning. I value place names and quality guarantees--I don't much buy into straight PR.

I grant you this: Meritage at least has legal standing as a trademark. Claret is a stretch as it has not been trademarked and the producers of it don't call their wines by that name.

I believe Hearty Burgundy was--is--a Gallo product, but I agree with your assessment of it. I used to use it as a ringer in Claret tastings...
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Bob Ross » Sat Jan 20, 2007 1:49 pm

"Hearty Burgundy" is a registered Gallo trademark: http://www.ejgtwinvalley.com/wines/default.asp?p=3

I agree, Thomas, it is an interesting ringer wine.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Thomas » Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:00 pm

Bob Ross wrote:"Hearty Burgundy" is a registered Gallo trademark: http://www.ejgtwinvalley.com/wines/default.asp?p=3

I agree, Thomas, it is an interesting ringer wine.


Not lately, Bob. The past two times I tried, the wine did not live up to its once deserved reputation. I understand that they stopped producing it from mostly Zinfandel. Score another for that often mis-maligned grape.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Robin Garr » Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:03 pm

Bob Ross wrote:I agree, Thomas, it is an interesting ringer wine.


Have you tried it lately, Bob? It was certainly an interesting ringer wine in the early '90s, but when I've tried to replicate the experiment in more recent years, it's been jug-quality stuff.

I'm not a knee-jerk anti-Gallo guy. I respect a lot of what they do. But they have an unerring sense of the market for each of their wines, and I think they've come to realize that the people who buy HB are not wine geeks and don't like wine-geek wines. They want something soft and sweet, and that's what they'll get.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Bob Ross » Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:17 pm

I did two summers ago, Robin. Outdoor party with roasted fish and vegetables, Cote du Rhones and sauvignon blancs. Folks preferred the Gallo -- but it might have been the food, frankly -- the simple sweetness really worked well with the roasted vegetables.

The experiment was aimed at a upscale guy who likes to bring "quality" wines to parties -- he brought a CdP with some age on it -- would have been a clear winner in a wine tasting, but showed badly this day.

I put the Gallo in a village Burgundy bottle -- can't remember the name and vintage -- but $50 price point from Chambers Street. It was the clear winner from a fairly wine savvy crowd. We were all surprised.
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Re: cuvee and meritage?

Postby Thomas » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:30 pm

Bob Ross wrote:I did two summers ago, Robin. Outdoor party with roasted fish and vegetables, Cote du Rhones and sauvignon blancs. Folks preferred the Gallo -- but it might have been the food, frankly -- the simple sweetness really worked well with the roasted vegetables.

The experiment was aimed at a upscale guy who likes to bring "quality" wines to parties -- he brought a CdP with some age on it -- would have been a clear winner in a wine tasting, but showed badly this day.

I put the Gallo in a village Burgundy bottle -- can't remember the name and vintage -- but $50 price point from Chambers Street. It was the clear winner from a fairly wine savvy crowd. We were all surprised.


Bob,

That's not a good test. If the people saw the bottle they could have been influenced by it, likely were. Even wine geeks are influenced by what they think they know, which is why completely blind tastings are best.
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