American Viticultural Area (AVA)
The American Viticultural Area and its Role in Labeling
The American Viticultural Area (AVA) system is an attempt to specify distinct wine regions and make that info known to consumers so they can make informed purchasing decisions. It also makes the genesis of a wine product more accurate. Finally, it is an attempt to make American wine more credible in international eyes. 85% of the grapes must be from the AVA for the winemaker to claim that a product is from a specific region.
The American AVA system is not as stringent as most European countries’ regulations. The French AOC system is significantly more comprehensive, attesting to their longer history of wine production. It governs varietal types, maximum production per acre, minimum alcohol levels, etc.
The AVA system does not dictate grape growing and wine making practices. It also does not specify a finite number of varietals for a region, nor does it imply a specific character of the wine within a designated AVA.
There are many examples of smaller AVAs within larger AVAs. For example, the Napa Valley is an AVA, but Rutherford and Mount Veeder are examples of more specific AVAs within this region. Vintners from Rutherford can call their wines either, “Napa Valley,” “Rutherford,” or include both AVAs on the label. There were 63 AVAs in California at the time of writing.
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