13_united_states_and_california

13_united_states_and_california - 75 THE WINES OF THE...

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75 THE WINES OF THE UNITED STATES The U.S. is a major wine producer, ranking in volume just behind France, Italy and Spain and just ahead of Argentina. About 90% of the wine produced in the U.S. comes from California but some wine is produced in over 40 states. Production in most of these states is very small and some relies on fruit imported from California. THE U.S. APPELLATION SYSTEM The U.S. wine appellation is called an American Viticultural Area (AVA). There are now close to 140 AVA’s and about 80 of them are in California. Just as in the other New World wine producing countries, there is no wine tradition in the U.S. that associates a place with a certain wine type. Consequently, it would not be reasonable to prescribe a particular wine type for each AVA (nor would independent American producers stand for such regimentation). Thus, AVA’s indicate only the geographic origin of the fruit used to make the wine. Grape varieties are not specified, nor are maximum yields or minimum potential alcohol. An AVA is not intended to be an indicator of quality . It is thus quite different than a European appellation. New AVA’s are usually proposed by the producers within an area who seek legal recognition of their regional identity. To be approved by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) as an AVA, the petitioners must demonstrate that the area is geographically distinct (but not necessarily viticulturally or enologically distinct ) and that the name proposed is one that is (or was at one time) known for the area locally or nationally and has recognized boundaries. An AVA can be any size. Some are as big as states (Ohio River Valley) while others are simply a single ranch. Most AVA’s do not yet have a distinct wine character of their own. (Exceptions are Stag’s Leap, known for Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carneros, known for Chardonnay and Pinot noir.) Wine production is regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). There are many federal regulations regarding how wine is made and they apply across the board to all wines, not just to wine originating from within AVA’s. BATF regulations specify minimum and maximum alcohol concentrations, what can and cannot be added to wine, what treatments can be used, and how wine must be labeled. Chaptalization is allowed under federal law and is commonly practiced in New York and Oregon and other cool areas. Individual states are allowed to enact regulations that are more stringent than the federal regulations. Examples are the prohibition of chaptalization in California and the 90% requirement for varietal labeling in Oregon . A vineyard designated wine (Martha’s Vineyard, in the Napa Valley)
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Wines of California 76 LABEL REGULATIONS Geographic origin of the fruit. It is not mandatory to use any geographic indication on an American wine label. But if one is used, a specified minimum of the fruit used to make the wine must have been grown within the area.
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