Wine Appellations

Wine Appellations or AVA’s in California Wine Country

What is a Wine Appellations or American Viticultural Area?

When you visit a set of wineries on our tours, you will be in areas that have been designated official wine growing regions called American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Here are some important ideas that will help you understand what the meaning is of these wine growing regions.

Instead of Appellations, the United States uses the term American Viticultural Areas or AVA for short.

AVAs are “official” grape growing regions that have been designated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

When an AVA is designated on the wine bottle’s label, 85% of that wine must come from the AVA.

AVAs are geographic locations that have the same climate, soil, and elevation and similar properties that give the wine a certain characteristic. For an example of these characteristics view the Rockpile AVA in northern Sonoma Country.

Just because a wine comes from a specific AVA does not indicate anything about the quality of the wine.

An AVA is considered a type of Appellation. The term appellation is often used instead of AVA. However, not all appellations are designated an AVA by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.

Any region in the United States can apply to become an AVA.

There can be sub-AVAs which means there can be several AVA’s designated within a larger AVA area. Example: The Napa Valley is an AVA, but there are smaller areas located within the Napa Valley that have an AVA. The Rutherford AVA is a small geographic area located within the Napa AVA.

Since an AVA is based on geographic regions, about all you can tell is what varietals are suited for growing in a particular AVA. Read, study, and taste wine. Don’t rely solely on the fact that a wine comes from a certain AVA. Rely on your knowledge and tasting experience.

For more information on American Viticultural Areas: The Wine Institute

What about Reserve wines, Library wines? These have nothng to do with AVA. Here is an article on tasting wines with these unofficial labels.