Reducing the Absurdities of Wine By One

America’s system of appellations, known as American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s), is, I admit, problematic. In some cases it’s VERY problematic. All you have to do is look at the "central coast" or "Sonoma Coast" AVAs to understand this. While we have some fairly intriguing and terroir-based AVAs like Green Valley, Anderson Valley, Rockpile, Stag’s Leap District and Atlas Peak, they are, in most cases, lines drawn on a map that represent the desires of the marketing mined.

Yet, given the problematic nature of the AVA system, is there really any reason for the federal government to approve of the notion that you can put the "American" appellation on your label even while including 25% NON-American wine into the wine?

The "American" designation is supposed to be used when grapes from different states are used to produce a wine. It tends to be used on lower priced wines.

I’m not suggesting that the law should restrict use of the "American" moniker on a label to only American-grown grapes because American grown grapes have some sort of unique character all their own. I’m suggesting that the current regulations that allow non-American grapes into an "American" blend is so ludicrous, so outside the realm of what should be minimally permissible that it begins to make the "California" AVA seem like a description of a specific, detailed, highly identifiable terroir.

The California Farm Press is reporting on
The California Association of Winegrape Growers‘ attempt to get this rule changed. The Farm Press, as usual, gets it right when it says:

"This is the right thing for the consumer and for the industry. And,
this is the right time to do it. With the growth of the number of
wineries in other states, the American appellation is frequently used
as a way to ensure that the grape supply in those states keeps up with
local demand. This presents us the opportunity and responsibility to
make sure an American wine is truly a blend of the United States of
America. More and more California growers are shipping grapes or juice
and bulk wine to these states."

I hope the California Association of Winegrape Growers are successful in getting the regulations changed, if only so the multitude of absurdities that too often invade the wine industry can be reduced by one.

2 Responses

  1. Saint_Vini - January 8, 2007

    I think Bonny Doon uses “American” appellation for its Riesling (though they disclose the German portion on the back label, IIRC) and I saw a North Carolina Chardonnay from the Biltmore estate winery with an “American” appellation, but I wonder how many premium wines ($7 and up) are actually “American” app? Aren’t most of these wines in jugs and boxes and aren’t most of the sub-premium wines just silent as to AVA? Does anybody who buys them really care or even know the difference?

  2. tom merle - January 8, 2007

    I don’t get why the formula used for the state and regional AVAs shouldn’t hold for America . Isn’t Stags Leap part of California which is part of America which is part of the world. The 85% rule should apply, IMHO. CAWG’s arguments are to be expected; they are expected to be self serving.

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