SOURCE: The Meritage Association

October 31, 2006 12:53 ET

Argentinean Winery Joins Meritage Association; International Membership Expands to Six Nations

YOUNTVILLE, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- October 31, 2006 -- The wine term "Meritage," originally coined to describe American wines blended in the tradition of Bordeaux, continues to gain international acceptance in the wine community. The Meritage Association today announced that Bodega y Vinedos Ricardo A. Sardi S.A., an Argentinean winery, has joined the organization, making Argentina the sixth country in which a Meritage wine is produced.

Earlier this month, Meritage wines from the United States, Canada and Mexico were featured in a major Italian tasting of Bordeaux-style wines, marking the first time the European wine community embraced the Meritage term.

"As Bordeaux blends grow in popularity, Meritage is becoming the preferred moniker," said Julie Weinstock, chairman of the Meritage Association and president of Cosentino Signature Wineries, which was the very first to use the term on a wine label.

The Meritage Association trademarked the term in 1988 after holding an international contest to develop a name for classic Bordeaux blends made in the United States. The word Meritage was selected -- a combination of "merit" (for the outstanding quality of the grapes) and "heritage" (recognizing the centuries-old French tradition of blending specific Bordeaux grape varieties). The word rhymes with "heritage."

"We wanted to develop a unique and descriptive term that would separate these wines from more common names, like red or white table wine," Weinstock said. "When we first started, many in our industry dismissed the concept and said it would never evolve. I think history has proven otherwise."

According to Weinstock, more than 160 wineries worldwide now make at least one Meritage wine. Membership in the organization has surged by more than 700% just in the last seven years (from 22 to 162). Wineries in 17 U.S. states make a Meritage wine, as do wineries in Canada, Australia, Israel, Mexico, and now, Argentina.

"Despite America's preoccupation with specific varietal wines over the past several years, blended wines continue to be popular and are frequently awarded the highest accolades," Weinstock said. "When major wine publications release their lists of Top 100 Wines each year, a significant number are blended wines, and several traditional Bordeaux-style blends almost always rank in the Top 10 on each list," she said.

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