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AVA vs. Appellation

May 08, 2017

An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, including a distinctive combination of soil, climate, and identifiable regional wine character, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury.

Willamette Valley AVA
The TTB defines AVAs at the request of wineries and other petitioners. As of March 2015, there were 230 AVAs in the United States. Prior to 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 law and may appear on wine labels as designated places of origin, but these appellations are distinct from AVAs.

Current regulations impose the following additional requirements on an AVA:

  • Evidence that the name of the proposed new AVA is locally or nationally known as referring to the area;
  • Historical or current evidence that the boundaries are legitimate;
  • Evidence that growing conditions such as climate, soil, elevation, and physical features are distinctive;

Petitioners are required to provide such information when applying for a new AVA, and are also required to use USGS maps to both describe (using terms from the map) and depict the boundaries.

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.



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