AVA?

~I forgive the consumer for not understanding the wine world in which I have lived and worked for the past two-dozen years. Sometimes I don’t understand either.
~Until today, I thought I had a handle on the AVA system, but I now understand that I do not have the handle I thought I had on it. It’s more like I am holding the ass end of…
~There’s a Web site called Appellation America which claims to cover the wine world across America; it does, after a fashion.
~In any case, I read an article on their Web site today about Paso Robles, an AVA in California. Maybe it would help you to have a brief explanation of AVA.

The federal agency that regulates such things refers to American Viticultural Areas (AVA) as “delimited grape growing areas.”

In theory, an AVA would have some sort of identifying nature to it, like particular soil structure, etc. Application for an AVA requires soil and geographic information. In fact, however, when subjected to dissenting opinions during the required public comment when an AVA application is submitted, the government agency often overrides or plays down geological information before making its decision.

It turns out that an AVA is assigned when the government agrees to recognize a particular geographic location as a place where grapes grow.


Unfortunately, while the AVA may include tons of stuff about the geographic location, it tells us nothing about which grapes grow there or how well they may grow there, and it certainly says nothing about quality.

To truly confuse the issue, an AVA can be the size of a postage stamp or the size of one of the fifty United States.

Recognizing from the above the relative non-importance of a federal recognized AVA, why would the subject have people in Paso Robles screaming at one another?

PS: don’t assume that the words “Appellation of Origin” have anything to do with AVA. They really do not. All the appellation of origin does is to point you in the direction of where the wine comes from and that could be a city, a town, a village, a state, or a country, depending upon where the grapes in the wine came from and in what percentage of the volume. Confused? You should be.

~Put as succinctly as I can, AVA is rather meaningless to anyone other than those who would regulate words for tax purposes and those who would exploit words to make wine sales.
~In Europe appellation controls were originally set up to both identify specific regions and specific wine types within those regions. Without applying such controls over grape growing (types of grapes, minimum levels of sugar/acid at harvest, size of vineyard area, etc) and without wine production prescriptions (mandatory blending parameters, types of vessels and length for aging, etc.) an AVA designation doesn’t tell the consumer nearly as much as what a European Appellation of Origin Control tells us. All we really know with an AVA is that grapes grow there and taxes are paid for the privilege of turning those grapes into wine.
~In Paso Robles, which is an AVA, a petition has been put up for public comment which, when passed by the government, and I predict that it will, the present AVA will divide into an east vs. a west AVA.
~Unless someone can tell the consumer why the AVA is good for the wine, why should the consumer care?

See for yourself:

AVA, Paso Robles,

Copyright, Thomas Pellechia
May, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Comments are closed.