American Viticultural Area

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A bottle of wine from the Santa Maria Valley AVA, which was America's third American Viticultural Area when it was established Solomon Hills Rose (2).jpg
A bottle of wine from the Santa Maria Valley AVA, which was America's third American Viticultural Area when it was established

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States, providing an official appellation for the mutual benefit of wineries and consumers. Winemakers frequently want their consumers to know about the geographic pedigree of their wines, as wines from a particular area can possess distinctive characteristics. Consumers often seek out wines from specific AVAs, and certain wines of particular pedigrees can claim premium prices and loyal customers. If a wine is labeled with an AVA, at least 85% of the grapes that make up the wine must have been grown in the AVA, and the wine must be fully finished in the state where the AVA is located. [1]



The boundaries of AVAs are defined by the Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a component of the United States Department of the Treasury. [1] The TTB defines AVAs at the request of wineries and other petitioners.

Section 4.25(e)(2) of the TTB regulations (27 C.F.R. § 4.25(e)(2)) outlines the procedure for proposing an AVA and provides that any interested party may petition the TTB to establish a grape-growing region as an AVA. Section 9.12 of the TTB regulations (27 C.F.R. § 9.12) prescribes the standards for petitions for the establishment or modification of AVAs. Petitions to establish an AVA must include the following:

Once a petition is accepted as complete, the TTB may choose to seek public input on the proposal and at its sole discretion may approve the proposed AVA.

Before the AVA system, wine appellations of origin in the United States were designated based on state or county boundaries. All of these appellations were grandfathered into federal regulations and may appear on wine labels as designated places of origin in lieu of an AVA, such as Sonoma County. In order for a wine to be labeled with a state or county appellation, at least 75% of the grapes used to make the wine must have been grown within the boundary of the appellation, and the wine must be fully finished within the state in which the appellation is located. Some states have more stringent rules, such as California, which requires 100% of the grapes used to make the wine be from California and that the wine be fully finished within the state. Washington requires 95% of the grapes in a Washington wine be grown in Washington.

Around the United States

AVAs vary widely in size, [2] ranging from the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA, at more than 19 million acres (29,900 square miles (77,000 km2)) across four states (Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin), [3] to the Cole Ranch AVA in Mendocino County, California, at only 60 acres (24 ha). [4] The Augusta AVA, which occupies the area around the town of Augusta, Missouri, was the first recognized AVA, gaining the status on June 20, 1980. [5] The second established AVA was Sonoma Valley, which was established in 1981. There are currently 258 AVAs in 34 states. [6] Over half (142) of the AVAs are in California; Sonoma County alone contains 17 AVAs. [7]

An AVA may be located within one or more larger AVAs. For example, the Santa Clara Valley AVA and Livermore Valley AVA are located within the territory of the San Francisco Bay AVA, which is itself located within the Central Coast AVA. [6] In such cases, the wine may be labeled with any of the relevant AVAs, but winemakers generally label wines with the most specific AVA allowed for each wine. Smaller AVAs are often perceived to be associated with smaller production and higher quality wines, though this is not always the case. See map on the right showing the outline of the Paso Robles AVA (California's largest in terms of area), and the different AVAs that are contained within this large AVA.

Paso Robles AVA Paso Robles AVA.jpg
Paso Robles AVA

In 2018, the second session of the 115th Congress recognized the contribution of American Viticultural Areas to the economy. The Blunt-Merkley Resolution passed unanimously. [8] It noted that an AVA allows vintners to describe more accurately the origin of their wine, while helping vintners to build and enhance the reputation and value of the wines produced. AVAs also allow consumers to attribute a given quality, reputation, or other characteristic to a wine made from grapes grown in an AVA. AVAs also help consumers identify what they purchase. [9]

Viticultural areas and appellations in other countries

Major wine growing countries such as France, Italy, and Spain have their own designations of viticultural areas and appellations. France has a system to identify the geographic origin of wines called the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée/Protégée (AOC/AOP) that began in 1937. Italy uses the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) system, which was first established in 1963. Today there are 329 different DOCs and 73 DOCGs in Italy. In Spain, the denominación de origen (DO) or denominación de origen protegida (DOP) system is used. Spain currently has 79 DOP’s, 2 DOC’s, 17 Vino de Pagos (VT), [10] and 46 Vino de la Tierra (VdlT/IGP).

See also

Related Research Articles

An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication primarily used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown, although other types of food often have appellations as well. Restrictions other than geographical boundaries, such as what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors may also apply before an appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine was produced.

<i>Denominazione di origine controllata</i> Quality assurance label for Italian wine products

The following four classifications of wine constitute the Italian system of labelling and legally protecting Italian wine:

In Spain, the denominación de origen is part of a regulatory geographical indication system used primarily for foodstuffs such as cheeses, condiments, honey, and meats, among others. In wines, it parallels the hierarchical systems of France (1935) and Italy (1963), although Rioja (1925) and Jerez (1933) preceded the full system. In foods, it performs a similar role, namely regulation of quality and geographical origin among Spain's finest producers. There are five other designated categories solely for wine and a further three specifically covering food and condiments, all recognised by the European Union (EU). In Catalonia, two further categories – labelled A and Q – cover traditional Catalan artisan food products, but were not recognised by the EU as of 2007. In recent decades, the concept of the denominación de origen has been adopted by other countries, primarily in Latin America. In 2016, the use of the term Denominación de Origen (DO) was changed in many cases for the European Denominación de Origen Protegida (DOP) by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but the traditional term of DO can still be used legally on labels.

<i>Appellation dorigine contrôlée</i> French protected geographic appellation

The appellation d'origine contrôlée is a French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products, all under the auspices of the government bureau Institut national des appellations d'origine, now called Institut national de l'origine et de la qualité (INAO). It is based on the concept of terroir and a form of geographic protectionism.

Aglianico del Vulture DOC wine from Potenza, Basilicata, Italy

Aglianico del Vulture and Aglianico del Vulture Superiore are Italian red wines based on the Aglianico grape and produced in the Vulture area of Basilicata. Located on volcanic soils derived from nearby Mount Vulture, it was awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in 1971. The Superiore was elevated to a separate Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 2011, the only DOCG wine in Basilicata.

Outline of wine Overview of and topical guide to wine

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to wine

Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions

Quality Wines Produced in Specified Regions is a quality indicator used within European Union wine regulations. The QWpsr category identifies wines with protected geographical indications. The European Union regulates and defines the status of "quality wines" according to production method, management and geographical location. Its original, fundamental role is in differentiating quality wines from table wines, broadly in line with the system traditionally employed by the French government, amended to account for the preferences and methodology of Italian and German growers, among others in the EU.

Santa Maria Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) which straddles the boundary of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties in California's multi-county Central Coast AVA. It was established on August 5, 1981 by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) as California's second oldest AVA. A portion of the AVA crosses the Cuyama River into the southernmost corner of San Luis Obispo County. The east–west orientation of the 152.3 square miles with a wide, open valley and rolling hills means cool winds and fog flow in freely from the Pacific Ocean, settling most noticeably in lower-lying areas. The result is a Mediterranean climate that lengthens the growing season and contributes to the eventual sugar/acid balance in the grapes from Santa Maria Valley's 7,500 acres (3,000 ha) cultivated vineyards. On January 28, 2011, the AVA was granted an 29.4 square miles expansion to its southern boundary.

Sonoma County wine

Sonoma County wine is wine made in Sonoma County, California, in the United States.

North Coast AVA

The North Coast AVA is an American Viticultural Area in the state of California that encompasses grape-growing regions in six counties located north of San Francisco: Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. This large appellation covers over 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) and includes a number of smaller sub-appellations that all share the common ecology trait of weather affected by the cool fog and breezes of the Pacific Ocean.

Russian River Valley AVA

The Russian River Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Sonoma County, California. Centered on the Russian River, the Russian River Valley AVA accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. The appellation was granted AVA status in 1983 and enlarged in 2005. The area generally lies between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa in the south, and Forestville and Healdsburg in the north. The Russian River Valley has a characteristically cool climate, heavily affected by fog generated by the valley's proximity to the Pacific Ocean. The area is known for its success with cool climate varietals, notably Pinot noir and Chardonnay.

Spring Mountain District AVA

The Spring Mountain District AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in the Napa Valley AVA in California. Spring Mountain District AVA was officially established as an American Viticulture Area in 1993. Encompassed within its bounds are about 8,600 acres (3,480 ha), of which about 1,000 acres (400 ha) are planted to vineyards. Given the small crop yields on hillsides, the region represents less than 2% of Napa Valley wine. Currently the region has just over 30 winegrowers.

The denominação de origem controlada is the system of protected designation of origin for fruit, wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products from Portugal.

Leona Valley AVA is an American Viticulture Area (AVA) in northeastern Los Angeles County, California. It is located in Leona Valley within the Sierra Pelona Mountains of Southern California.

Wine laws are legislation regulating various aspects of production and sales of wine. The purpose of wine laws includes combating wine fraud, by means of regulated protected designations of origin, labelling practices and classification of wine, as well as regulating allowed additives and procedures in winemaking and viticulture. Legislation affecting all kinds of alcohol beverages, such as the legal drinking age and licensing practices related to distribution and sales, are usually not considered wine laws.


Mastroberardino is an Italian winery located in Atripalda, in Provincia di Avellino, in the Campania region. Founded in 1878, the winery is known for its production of Taurasi DOCG as well as its ampelography work in identifying and preserving ancient grape varieties like Greco and Fiano. The work of the Mastroberardino family, particularly Antonio Mastroberardino, in this field is widely respected and Antonio is often called "The Grape Archaeologist".

The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA

The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA is an American Viticultural Area that is a sub-appellation of the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which itself is a sub-appellation of the Columbia Valley AVA.

Kelsey Bench-Lake County AVA is an American Viticultural Area located in Lake County, California. The area is home to some 900 acres of vines in 27 vineyards, and was officially established as an AVA by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in October 2013. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Riesling are the principal white grape varieties within Kelsey Bench and its neighbor the Big Valley District AVA. The Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Franc varieties make up the majority of red grape plantings in the area.

Petaluma Gap AVA is an American Viticultural Area established on January 8, 2018 by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The area spans 202,476 acres (316 sq mi) stretching through an 30 miles (48 km) inland valley from the Pacific coast at Bodega Bay southeast to Highway 37 at Sears Point on San Pablo Bay straddling the border of northern Marin and southern Sonoma counties. The AVA lies entirely within the North Coast AVA and partially in the Sonoma Coast AVA with eighty commercially-producing vineyards cultivating 4,000 acres (1,619 ha) and nine bonded wineries. The wind gap in its coastal mountain range funnels cooling breezes and fog east from the Pacific Ocean through the city of Petaluma to San Pablo Bay. A persistent afternoon breeze causes lower grape yields and longer hang time contributes to the AVA vintages' unique flavors and fruit characteristics which defines their character and distinction.

Moon Mountain District Sonoma County

Moon Mountain District Sonoma County is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) within Sonoma Valley and North Coast viticultural areas, just north of the city of Sonoma. This mountainous region on the very eastern edge of Sonoma County has a historic reputation for producing rich, intensely-flavored wines from Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah varietals since the 1880s. The District was established on November 1, 2013 by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Its designation covers 17,663 acres (28 sq mi) of land stretching north-south along the western slopes of the Mayacamas mountains between Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Los Carneros viticultural area with the Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder viticultural area outlining the eastern slopes. Its name is derived from Moon Mountain Road, which traverses through the area and itself a reference to Sonoma, which means 'valley of the moon' in the local Native American dialect. A clear view to San Francisco 50 miles (80 km) south is not uncommon from Moon Mountain District vineyards.


  1. 1 2 "Wine Appellations of Origin". Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  2. "Welcome to the World, Tehachapi Mountains AVA!" (e.g., AVA geographic areas). Wine, Wit and Wisdom. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  3. "Upper Mississippi River Valley (AVA)". Appellation America. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  4. "Cole Ranch (AVA)". Appelation America. Archived from the original on September 7, 2013. Retrieved July 17, 2015.
  5. "§9.22 Augusta" (Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Part 9 — American Viticultural Areas; Subpart C — Approved American Viticultural Areas). Code of Federal Regulations . June 20, 1980.
  6. 1 2 "Established American Viticultural Areas". Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau. U.S. Department of the Treasury. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  7. "Sonoma County Terroir". Sonoma County Winegrowers. Retrieved May 27, 2019.
  8. "Senate Passes Blunt-Merkley Resolution Recognizing Economic & Cultural Contributions of American Viticultural Areas" (Press release). Sen. Roy Blunt. September 26, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  9. "Recognizing the contributions of American Viticultural Areas and winegrowing regions" (Blunt-Merkley Resolution). September 26, 2018. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  10. Hudin, Miquel (March 13, 2018). "What is a Vino de Pago?". Decanter. Retrieved May 27, 2019.