This blog is really not about the glamorous multi-married film star Ava Gardner (maybe I am showing my age that I even remember her).

Wine enthusiasts will know of the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AC) designation which guarantee the origin (and occasionally the quality) of French wines. These have extremely complex rules based upon local laws – what sort of grape varieties are allowed, how many grapes per acre are permitted, what the label looks like and so on.  Similar regulations apply in countries around the world, though thankfully they are usually less prescriptive.

The USA came relatively late into the great winemaking countries of the world with a well-deserved reputation for being innovative. So, since 1980, the USA has its own equivalent – the American Viticultural Area (AVA). The AVA name describes a geographic region that a wine comes from.

USA wines must fit into a hierarchy of wine origin labelling controlled by Federal regulations (administered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). In all cases the wine has to be actually made where it claims it was. But it is where the grapes come from that matters. At the bottom of the stack is “American wine” – it can be composed entirely of grapes from anywhere in USA (which probably means a lot of Californian grape juice).

Next up the list are wines labelled with the State or county that they come from. These require that the wine is made with at least 75% of the grapes from that State or County. By a strange bureaucratic quirk, if a wine is labelled as coming from a combination of two or three counties in the same state, it must be made 100% from grapes grown in those counties.

Top of the list are wines coming from an AVA. Not less than 85% of the grapes used for the wine must come from within the AVA.

There are (as at October 27 this year – this blog has all the latest information!) 239 AVAs. They range in size from a massive 29,900 square miles (the Upper Mississippi Valley AVA) to the 60 acres of Cole Ranch AVA. And there is one AVA, Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA, which crosses the state line between Georgia and North Carolina.

Why is this of interest to Cavender Creek Winery? Because top of the list of proposed AVAs awaiting approval by ATTTB is the Dahlonega Plateau AVA. This will be first AVA located purely in Georgia. The petition for this AVA was finalized at the end of April 2015. Already, the phrase Dahlonega Plateau is appearing on the back labels and marketing materials. Before long, the wines produced in the five Lumpkin County wineries (Cavender Creek, Frogtown, Montaluce, Three Sisters and Wolf Mountain) plus two near neighbors in White County (Kaya and The Cottage) will be able to proudly boast their AVA status with their commitment to local production. It’s been a long time coming.

Robin Hall

An update on AVA
Since I wrote this blog article, the Perfected Petition was moved on 2nd December to the “Notices of Proposed Rulemaking”, available for public comment up to the end of January 2017. Things are happening!