Here in the USA the more known your wine gets the more independence you want to be able to label your wine from where it comes from. If your wine is actually from Napa Valley or Yountville, you want to be able to say it proud and say it loud.

That’s what the American Vinicultural Area is about – The AVA’s are coming into play in the USA. Very similar in the way the French are hooked on the ‘Control’ of their Appellations – The USA is getting more detailed; which is great for the consumer and great for the winery or the area if it starts to get prevalent. For example, Stag’s Leap, Carneros, Alexander Valley, Paso Robles, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Monticello and the Finger Lakes to name a bunch throughout the country.

An American Vinicultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), United States Department of the Treasury. As of March 2015, there were 230 AVAs in the United States.

And just so you know the TTB defines AVAs at the request of wineries and other petitioners and current regulations push for extra requirements on an AVA.

For instance, the proof that the name of the proposed new AVA is locally or nationally recognized as denoting to the area. Also key is the historical or current evidence that the boundaries are legitimate (using maps); And the evidence that the terroir or growing conditions such as climate, soil, elevation, and physical features are distinguishing characteristics.

Once an AVA is established, at least 85% of the grapes used to make a wine must be grown in the specified area if an AVA is referenced on its label; per the TTB

Keep in mind that the state or county boundaries—such as for Oregon or Sonoma County—are not actually AVAs, even though they are used to identify and designate the source of a wine. The AVAs are reserved for situations where a geographically defined area has been using the name and it has come to be identified with that area. It is meant to be specific. So one can know with more detail where the wine is coming from, to be able to dig deeper to the source.

To illustrate, a vineyard may be in more than one AVA. Case in point, the Santa Clara Valley AVA and Livermore Valley AVAs are located within the territory of the San Francisco Bay AVA, which is itself located within the Central Coast AVA.

FYI, The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) website, the Wine Institute and Wikipedia has a lot of this good listing and information here; for that matter.

So just be aware…The more popular wine areas get the more you’ll realize what’s on the label and be able to distinguish the efforts at better quality wine and how to use your pocketbook for a real distinguishable and solid AVA wine.