american viticultural area (ava)
An American system implemented in 1978 to identify U.S. wines in a fashion similar to the French appellation system. Unlike the French regulations, however, the rules governing AVAs (under the jurisdiction of the Tax and Trade Bureau, previously BATF) are very lax. An American AVA is defined strictly by a geographic area, whereas in France the parameters are much more precise. A French appellation identifies the grape varieties that may be grown in a geographic area, the maximum production per acre, the minimum level of alcohol required for wines produced in the area and so forth. The only requirement for wine with an AVA designation is that 85 percent of the grapes must be grown in that viticultural area. Growers must petition the Tax and Trade Bureau to obtain an AVA designation for a region. The Bureau's decision is based on such characteristics as an area's topography, soil type, climate, elevation and, to some extent, historical precedent. AVAs range in size from several hundred acres to several million; some reside within other larger AVAs. For example, California's Napa Valley is an AVA that encompasses other AVAs including Howell Mountain, Stags Leap District and Rutherford Bench. The first AVA in the United States was the Augusta AVA in Missouri, established in 1980.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.