American Viticultural Area
An AVA is a federally recognized grape-growing region with distinguishable growing conditions—such as climate, soil or elevation—that differ from surrounding areas.
AVAs would be of little value were it not for the concept of terroir—the unique combination of environmental factors such as soil and climate that are expressed in the distinctive quality and character of crops grown in that environment. Though it does not account for the human element, a vineyard’s location/terroir is a useful indicator of the quality of the grapes that can be cultivated there.
There are over 200 AVAs
There are no size requirements for AVAs, and they vary drastically: The largest encompasses over 19 million acres and straddles four Midwestern states; the smallest is a mere 60-acre patch nestled between the Russian River and the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County.
California accounts for more than half of the nation’s AVAs—over 107 at last count. You’ll find vineyards in 46 of the state’s 58 counties. In total, more than half a million acres of California farmland are devoted to wine grapes. To include an AVA on a wine label, at least 85% of the grapes used must be grown in that AVA.