Woohoo! South Washington, where I live, is one step closer to becoming an AVA, which is a designated wine region. This great news led me to want to explore AVAs. Please join me in this exploration.
What Are AVAs?
American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs, are designated wine grape-growing regions in the United States. Their boundaries are defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), and they are established at the request of wineries, vineyards, or other petitioners.
Did you know that there are 16 American Viticultural Areas in Napa Valley alone?
According to Grape Adventures, “As of 2019, there are 246 recognized AVAs in 33 states—several AVAs are located in two or more states. The movement to establish more AVAs is especially strong in California which currently has over 139 AVAs.”
Obtaining approval from the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to establish a new AVA requires you to show significant evidence that the microclimate within the designated geographic area is unique and consistent.
Why Are These Areas So Important?
Grape Adventures tells us that “These designated grape growing regions…allow vintners and wine enthusiasts to attribute unique characteristics, climatic features, quality, reputation, or other attributes of a wine made from grapes grown to its specific AVA geographic region.” It’s all about terroir, which Wine Folly describes as the way “a particular region’s climate, soils and aspect (terrain) affect the taste of wine.” Wine Folly says that some regions are said to have more ‘terroir’ than others.
They go on to say that, “It is beneficial for a winery to be a part of a prestigious or well-known AVA, which garners more positive views on their vineyard’s grapes and finished wines. This allows the vintner to better market their wines and exact higher revenue.”
The News in Washington
Washington currently has 20 AVAs. Of the 23 AVAs that have come online since 2020, six were in Washington.
The Columbian says that the proposed AVA was first brought up in August 2022. It now has a pending status. “The bureau, which manages the AVA designation process, recently told the Southwest Washington Winery Association that the group’s petition to form its Mount St. Helens American Viticultural Area met the agency’s regulatory requirements. Next, the bureau will start its proposed rulemaking process.” The whole process could take more than a year.
According to washingtonwine.org, 99% of the grapes grown in Washington grow in the Columbia Valley AVA. “Inside the Columbia Valley AVA, however, you have what are called sub-appellations, which are their own federally-recognized AVAs, wholly contained inside the boundaries of the Columbia Valley AVA.” So, the Mount St. Helens AVA would be a part of the Columbia AVA.
“Viticultural areas ‘will attract tourism more than just an association of wineries,’ said Richard Meyerhoefer, president of the Southwest Washington Winery Association and owner of Emanar Cellars in Battle Ground. ‘It’s going to benefit all the facilities that deal with wine in the area.’”
Do you have some favorite appelations?