Much Ado about AVAs

AVA stands for American Viticultural Area, and refers to a designated geographical area that may be legally printed on a bottle of wine if 85% of the grapes that went into the wine were grown in that area. Sometimes these areas, like the Russian River Valley, for instance, are referred to by the generic (and French derived term) appellation.

AVAs are overseen at a national level by the Tax and Trade Bureau, which for the last few decades has been managing the process by which new AVAs are recognized and codified. This is a long, drawn out, and often political process through which many prospective wine regions in America have struggled, sometimes to triumph and sometimes with tragic frustration.

That is, until a couple of weeks ago, when the TTB basically pulled the parking brake on the moving car. You’d have to be in, or well connected, to the wine business to know, as this wasn’t exactly a piece of news that made front page headlines anywhere (except perhaps the pages of Wine Business Monthly and the Napa Valley Register) but when the TTB indefinitely suspended all pending and future AVA approvals until further notice, a shockwave rippled through the wine industry.

What’s going on? Well, there’s an interesting interview over at Appellation America that explains it through an interview with a couple of the consultants that fledgling wine regions often hire to help them through the AVA petition process. For those interested in the political and business side of the wine industry, or for those interested in rubbernecking at a (admittedly, slightly esoteric) fermenting scandal, it’s worth a read.

Thanks to Arthur over at, who tipped me off to the interview.