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What’s an AVA?

by David on January 4, 2011

It’s important! When I buy wine, one of the first things I look for on the label is where the grapes were grown, which, in America, is the AVA or appellation. It’s the number one influence on wine character. Heck, in most of Europe, wine is named and sold in terms of location, not variety!

It turns out that in America we use the terms appellation, district and AVA pretty much interchangably, even though they don’t mean exactly the same thing. You should know that the AVA (American Viticultural Area) can only be used by a region that has convinced the federal government that it has a distinctive combination of soil, climate and topography which, in turn, contribute to identifiable regional wine character.  They also need to see a history of wine production in the region. Wines named for states don’t fall into that category – in this country, if it’s just a place, it’s an appellation.

AVAs don’t have to be smaller, in fact there are some that straddle states (!), but they usually are. For instance, the Napa Valley AVA produces about 4% of California’s wine. The sub-AVA of Yountville, where Goosecross is located produces a small fraction of the larger Napa Valley AVA. A single-vineyard wine, like our Estate Cab is about as specific as you can get, coming off of a fraction of our 9.5-acre home ranch. There are many who think the more specific the appellation, the more distinctive the wine.

Federal law requires an 85% minimum of the grapes come from the AVA in order to use it on the label.

This can get complicated, so click here for more information.


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