Oh, America. The land of freedom! Opportunity! In celebration of this, my most favorite of holidays, I want to talk about why American wine so beautifully reflects these most inspiring American ideals.
Unlike most of the wine production in European countries, such as, for example, France, wine makers in the US are relatively uninhibited.
In the US, folks in the wine industry are allowed to grow any grape they fancy in whichever place they may take a shining to. Not so in Europe! Let’s take our friend, France, as another example. Ever wonder what grape was used to make that fancy glass of Burgundy? Well, that’s just silly because the ONLY red grape allowed to be grown ANYWHERE in Burgundy is Pinot Noir.
Every wine-producing region in France has similar laws and enforces them vigorously. In regions where multiple varieties are allowed, there are even laws that govern the percentages of those grapes used to blend a wine! Ever wonder why it’s so hard to decipher a French wine label? Those laws play a big part of why French wine can seem so intimidating. Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany – they all have their own particular set of rules and regulations, too.
In the USA, however, there are no such rules. You can grow whatever you want wherever you want – it may not taste very good, but it ain’t against the law.
Want to talk about opportunity? Let’s talk about American wine. Remember those confusing European laws dictating what grapes producers can grow and where? Well, there are all kinds of regulations regarding appellations (AOC’s in France, DOC’s in Spain, and on and on and on), that can really hurt or help a winemaker, too.
A wine’s appellation is, in a lot of ways, its pedigree – it provides not only geographical (ie where it was grown and produced) information but can also conjure all kinds of notions about quality, style, and price. It is nearly impossible to convince the French government to recognize a new AOC or to upgrade an area (oh, did I not mention that there’s a hierarchy intrinsic to all this, too?) to a higher status.
Meanwhile, in America, there are currently 112 regions that have pending AVA status (an AVA is the American equivalent of an AOC). In France, they granted AOC status to three new wine-producing areas in 2011. The AVA system doesn’t have the same kind of hierarchy built into it, either. A wine is either from an AVA or not. Even if a wine is not from a specific AVA, it still must be labeled – ever wonder what the difference is between a Cabernet Sauvignon labeled “California” and one labeled “Napa Valley”? The former was produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown anywhere and maybe even all over the state of California. The latter was produced from grapes that were only grown in Napa Valley.
So what does it mean that we Americans are so generous with flinging AVA’s about? It means that the American wine production is still growing and changing and evolving. And that, my friend, is opportunity.
What are you waiting for? Go! Celebrate this most American Holiday with one of its greatest achievements – whether it’s a bold Napa Cab, a rich California Chardonnay, or, heck, even some plain old White Zinfandel (you bet your butt that’s an American wine)! Just drink American and be proud!