Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Here in Washington state, a new appellation called Horse Heaven Hills was recently recognized. The creation of new AVAs seems rather infrequent. What is the process a region must go through in order to be recognized as its own AVA here in the United States?
An American Viticultural Area, or AVA, is a grape-growing region distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the United States government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Anyone can petition for an AVA, although it tends to be winemakers and grapegrowers who do all the petitioning. Petitions need a lot of evidence that the area is historically known, distinctive and geographically unique. An argument to create an AVA has to be very persuasive—petitions these days contain extensive evidence from soil experts, engineers, meteorologists, historians and researchers, not to mention attorneys! There used to be AVA public hearings, but now there is a notice-and-comment period instead. Still, the process takes years and pockets full of cash.
How useful AVAs are is another question. While some are distinctive and consistent enough, in terms of geology and climate, to create wines with recognizable character, others are simply marketing devices. The mere existence of an AVA doesn't mean the wines themselves will be special.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered