Claret: Old and New

When I began working in the wine industry, just a little while ago, I started noticing certain things about wines.  I found that some cultures had particular nicknames.  The most common of those names was Claret.  It’s often come to my attention, and I of course looked it up as soon as I heard it the first time.  Think of it like the American meritage (which is a combination of the word merit and heritage).  In the beginning, Claret looks like it would be a French name doesn’t it?  Well come to find out it’s not!

This word comes from the British (so pronounce the T).  The definition is clear, or in this term, rosé.  It’s meant for fruity, soft, easy-drinking wines.  When this term was first in use, that’s what the blends would be—light and fruity.  Over the years, the term has muddled a bit, but kept with the idea that it was an English term for a French Bordeaux (or at least a blend of the Bordeaux grapes).  There were a few uses of it in the US, but for the most part we went with Meritage instead.  That was up until a few years ago.  Bordeaux decided it wanted their word back.  Many of the labels with the word on it had to be revised, a few were allowed to keep it, but Bordeaux gets what Bordeaux wants.  Now we have to remember they are using the term as a part of marketing Bordeaux, not as a new appellation.  We should start seeing this soon in bottles from Bordeaux Superieur.

One of the great things everyone has learned about this name, Meritage, and others like it, is that all wines from around the world that are a blend of at least two of the five Bordeaux grapes can name themselves anything they want, really.  Blends seem to be picking up speed in popularity, so keep your eyes peeled for the new (old) face of Claret.

Kathleen Anderson, Northwest FL wine supervisor. Follow me on Twitter @abcwinekat.

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