What is Claret wine?
Claret is a generic term that some British use for the red wines of Bordeaux. This term dates back to the middle ages and was most prevalent in the 1700s and 1800s England but can still be seen today.
More modern uses of the term Claret include the labeling of American made Bordeaux style blends.
Winemaking blends that include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and sometimes Petit Verdot that are made in California, Oregon, or Washington use the term Claret.
Some red Bordeaux wines from France also sport the name Claret or Clairet. However, these are only put on bottles meant for exporting from the Bordeaux region to England.
The term Claret is not legally protected like Bordeaux or Champagne, so anyone can use it and there is no official meaning.
What about the Clairette grape?
Claret is not to be confused with the French white wine grape Clairette. There is no relation to them besides the fact that they sound the same and have the same name origin.
Is Meritage wine the same thing?
Claret is loosely related to the American term Meritage. Unlike Claret; Meritage is actually trademarked. This is a term that some producers in America, mostly in the Napa wine region of California, will use for their Bordeaux-style red or white wine blends. Claret is only used as a term for Bordeaux blends or Bordeaux style red wines.
Labeling with the term Meritage may also indicate that the winery has joined The Meritage Alliance. The Meritage Alliance was formed in 1988 by a group of American winemakers in order to identify hand-crafted wines blended from the traditional “noble” Bordeaux varietals. Francis Ford Coppola is known to use the term Meritage for many of their Bordeaux style red wines.
The traditional “Noble” Bordeaux reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. The Bordeaux blend must be a combination of two or more of these grape varieties.
Neither Claret or Meritage is used to describe rosé wines, although the base word for Claret describes a light colored red wines.
Both Claret and Meritage demonstrate the tannins, acidity, and boldness of Bordeaux wine.s that have been a staple of wine lovers for centuries. These wines are best paired with rich and meaty dishes like Stroganoff, steaks, and Bolognese.
Find more on Claret food pairings here.
Try the tasting exercise of comparing bottles that say Claret, Meritage, and Bordeaux.