American wine has been produced for over 300 years. Today, wine production is undertaken in all fifty states, with California producing 89 percent of all US wine. The United States is the fourth largest wine producing country in the world after France, Italy, and Spain.
The North American continent is home to several native species of grape, including Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia, Vitis rotundifolia, Vitis vulpina, and Vitis amurensis, but it was the introduction of the European Vitis vinifera by European settlers that led to the growth of the wine making industry. With more than 1,100,000 acres (4,500 km2) under vine, the United States is the sixth most planted country in the world after France, Italy, Spain, China and Turkey.
North America's history of wine making dates back to 1521, when invading Spaniards planted the first vines. Wines have been produced in California since late 18th century. In California the grape vines were first planted by Spanish missionaries in San Diego. The credit of founding the wine industry goes to George Calvert Young who planted the first vines in 1838 and could produce 900 litres of wine a year by 1850. By mid 19* century large number of vineyards came up owned by various people like Frank E Kellogg, Colonel Joseph B Chiles, the Thomson Brothers, John M Plachett and Judge J.H. McCord (Oak Grove).
In 1870, after the phylloxera attack grafting of vitis vinifera - the superior variety was done on Vitis riparia and vitis rupestris and vitis labrusca. Such crosses known as hybrid were immune to phylloxera - hence became popular. The American stocks were in great demand all over the world. The-Califoraia wine industry survived two scourges of phylloxera and prohibition. Although the wines were produced during prohibition but for the use by the church as "Sacramental Wine". The prohibition was repealed in 1933 and the wine industry started all over again afresh with replantation of vines with new equipment and better techniques.
The early American appellation system was based on the political boundaries of states and counties. In September 1978 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (now Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) developed regulations to establish American Viticultural Areas (AVA) based on distinct climate and geographical features. In June 1980, the Augusta AVA in Missouri was established as the first American Viticultural Area under the new appellation system. For the sake of wine labeling purposes, all the states and county appellations were grandfathered in as appellations. There were 187 distinct AVAs designated under U.S. law as of April 2007.
Appellation labeling laws
In order to have an AVA appear on a wine label, at least 85% of the grapes used to produce the wine must be grown in the AVA.
Current U.S. laws allow American made wines to be labeled as "American Burgundy" or "California champagne", even though these names are restricted in Europe. U.S. laws only restrict usage to include the qualifying area of origin to go with these semi-generic names. Other semi-generic names in the United States include Claret, Chablis, Chianti, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Rhine wine, Sauternes (commonly spelled on U.S. wine labels as Sauterne or Haut Sauterne), Sherry and Tokay. European Union officials have been working with their U.S. counterparts through World Trade Organization negotiations to eliminate the use of these semi-generic names.
Fighting varietals is a term that originated in California during the mid 1980s to refer to any inexpensive cork-finished varietal wine in a 1.5 liter bottle. Fighting varietals have largely replaced the jug wines that were often labeled with semi-generic names. Consumer demand for varietals has essentially dried up the market for semi-generic wines. The exception is very inexpensive sparkling wines that are sometimes labeled "California champagne."
|AMERICAN WINE LABEL|
CLASSIFICATION OF AMERICAN WINES
1.Generic Wines : Generic wines are those wines which are named after the long established European areas. Many North American and Australian wines are labeled as Claret, Burgundy, Chablis, Sauternes, Graves, Hock and even Champagne. The system of naming wines after European areas started in 1933, when they tried to copy European wines. However, they do not have very little and sometimes no resemblance to their European counterparts.
2.Varietal Wines : These are the wines of North America, which are labelled after the main grape variety in the bottle. Single grape variety is used for making wine. What makes California wines (and Australian wines) so user friendly today is the way the producers have marketed
the varietal concept of using only one type of grape in wine and stating this firmly and clearly on the label.
Best known examples are - Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet-Red; Sultana, Sauvignon Vert, Chardonnay-white.
The top quality California's varietal wines are comparable with French AOC wines.
3.Proprietary wines: these are the best wines of California, most famous being Robert Mondavi.
AVAs (Approved Viticultural Areas of United States): The closest California has come to any classification system is AVA now referred as American Viticulture Area. This system is enforced by a body called BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). Labelling Laws
"Estate bottled" means 100% of the grapes have come from a single AVA, from estate's own vineyard
"Produced and bottled by" it means 75% of the wine is from winery, rest 25% is a purchased wine.
"Made and bottled by" it means 10-74% of the wine is from winery, rest is purchased.
"Perfected and bottled by" - it means that bottler has not made the wine but it is purchased and Wended.
Wines carrying a region, state or country appellation must contain a minimum of 75% of grapes Tom that state or country.
If year of vintage is to be stated, the wine must contain 95 percent of grapes from that year. The producers must belong to an association of Meritage Producers.
California : Huge amounts of wines are produced in California, majority being "Jug Wine" from the hot central valley. California top wines are produced by smaller "boutique Wineries"
A. North Coast Area: It is divided into following counties.
(i) Mendocino County: Anderson Valley is the coolest region, most suitable for growing vine.
Louis Roederer produce sparkling wine by "methode champenoise" using Chardonnay and
Pinot Noir grape variety. Cabernet wine is produced in Redwood valley by Fetzer.
(ii) Sonoma County : Sonoma has a wide variation of climate and therefore produces many styles of wines some of the top wines of this county are
Wines from wineries like Simi
White wines of Chateau St. Jean
Cabernet wine of Chalk Hill
Sparkling wine of Iron Horse
(iii) Napa Valley : Due to different microclimates there are wide range of wines from this place. The vineyards are located on hillside and narrow valley floor. Robert Mondavi tireless great man of this region has been responsible for broadcasting and spreading the gospel of Californian wine.
B. The Central and South Central Coast
The most important areas include Monterey, Chalone, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Edna Valley and Santa Ynez Valley. Some very good wines of this region are:
Cabernet by Ridge
Pinot Mow by Calera
White wines of Chalone and Jekel
Pinot noir of Edna Valley and Firestone
chardonnay of Zeca Mesa
C. The Central Valley produces jug wines. The famous ones are
I) Spicy red Alicante Bouschet by Angelo Papagni
ii) Sweet Muscat called Essensia by Quady.
D. The Pacific North West
(i) Oregon : It is one of upcoming state in the wine industry. Unlike California wines which ate often too high in alcohol and low in acidity, Oregon wines have the acidity necessary for a great wine. Oregon has much cooler climate than California. The grape varieties used are Pinot Noir, GewUrztraminer, Pinot Oris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling. It is Pinot Noir that really put Oregon on the quality wine map. The AVAs of Oregon are
Eyrie vineyards producing good chardonnays
(ii) Washington State: It depends on irrigation from Columbia river. The vineyards are located to the east of Cascade mountains in Columbia basin. The various grape varieties grown in mis region are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay, The grapes are rich in sugar content and have high acid due to climate being hot during the days and cold nights. The AVA's of this region are :
Walla Walla Valley
Columbia Valley being common for Oregon and Washington State.
(iii) Idaho: It is the smallest of north-west vineyards. The vineyards are situated at high altitude. The climate is continental i.e. hot summer and very cold winter. The wines which have gained popularity are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling.
(iv) New York State : The climate of Finger Lakes region of New York state in the east of USA is similar to that of Germany, with hard cold winters and a short hot summer season. The specks of vine planted is Vitis Riparia. It is known for its indigenous (native) wines.
Largest producers of American wines
E & J Gallo Winery - Accounts for more than a quarter of all U.S. wine sales and is the second largest producer in the world.
Constellation Brands - With foreign wine holdings Constellation is the largest producer in the world and includes Robert Mondavi Winery and Columbia Winery in its portfolio
The Wine Group - San Francisco-based business which owns the Franzia box wine label, Concannon Vineyard and Mogen David kosher wine.
Bronco Wine Company - Owners of the Charles Shaw wine "Two Buck Chuck" line which accounts for nearly 5 million of Bronco's annual average 9 million cases per year.
Diageo - UK based company with American holdings in Sterling Vineyards, Beaulieu Vineyard and Chalone Vineyard
Brown-Forman Corporation - Owners of the Korbel Champagne Cellars brand
Beringer Blass - Australian based wine division of Foster's Group and owner of the Beringer wine and Stags' Leap Winery brands
Jackson Wine Estates - Owners of the Kendall-Jackson brand