Not so long ago I said to myself, it would be nice if the US had a wine classification program similar to those in France or Italy. Those wine classification programs help tell the consumer, us, a little about where the wine came from and a little about the quality. All in all, the classifications aren’t perfect, but they’re more than a tad better than complete and total anarchy. In fact, since 1980 the US has had somewhat of a classification system.
AVA means American Viticultural Area. Although the last A might more aptly mean Anarchy. To qualify to display an AVA on the label, 85% of the grapes used to make the wine have to be grown in that AVA. That’s similar to the European designations. The European classifications may also specify other qualifications the wine must meet to print that classification on the wine label. The European classifications also have tiers of classifications which attempt (truly an attempt only) to offer some definition of quality.
More importantly the European labels specify the official standard the wine meets. Examples of these official classifications are AOC, DOC, IGT, Vin de pays, etc. Not only doesn’t the AVA attempt to classify quality, it doesn’t seem to even want the letters AVA on the label. In our TJ example here, Edna Valley is an AVA. Edna Valley is one of around 200 AVAs. How would a consumer know that Edna Valley is an AVA just reading the wine label without the official designation of AVA also printed on the label? For example, which is an AVA, Rattlesnake Hills or Sonoma Highlands? The answer, of course, Rattlesnake Hills is an AVA. So we suppose that just the words Edna Valley on the wine label mean 85% of the grapes were grown in this defined area. Wouldn’t it be better to label as Edna Valley, AVA?
I may have missed something in my limited research of AVAs. If anyone has more insight into how the AVA system is supposed to work, make a note in a comment. But the real answer to why AVA doesn’t seem to make sense is in the letters ATF. ATF stands for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The ATF controls the AVA system. Enough said.
But getting back to the wine, I didn’t really like it. There are better wines available at less cost (see more reviews here). Sorry Edna Valley.