Education Series – What exactly is an AVA?

If you read wine publications, blogs, and newspaper columns or have ever looked closely at some bottle labels you may have come across the acronym, AVA. AVA stands for American Viticulture Area and is a designation given to certain wine growing regions by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  AVAs can be big, like the biggest that crosses 4 states and covers 26,000 square miles (Ohio River Valley AVA) and small, the smallest of which covering less than a quarter square mile. (Cole Ranch AVA).  An AVA is a system for defining geographical grape growing areas in the United States. The regulations state that you may use an AVA designation (such as Sonoma Valley, Stags Leap District or Columbia Valley) on your wine label only if 85% of the grapes for that wine are grown in the AVA that is printed on the label.  The system was put in place to create governmental wine controls similar to that of Old World wine making countries like the AOC in France and the DOC in Italy.  The AVA system is much more easy going that the AOC and DOC, the only major stipulation being the 85% rule mentioned above, where as the AOC and DOC can define which grapes are grown in which regions, barrel maturation times, and alcohol levels and so on.

Here in Virginia we have six official AVAs

The Wine Institute has a great WIKI page that goes into much more detail than I have about American Viticulture Areas with facts, figures, and controversy. Currently there is much debate about proposed regulatory changes to the AVA definitions by the TTB, one of which being the grandfathering of brand names that carry AVA designations, but don’t necessarily make 85% of their wine from that AVA.

For more information on AVAs, email me or check out the following sites.

Wine Institute on WIKI

Appellation America

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Categories: AVA, wine education, wine industry issues | Leave a comment