An appellation is a legally defined and protected geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown; other types of food often have appellations as well. Restrictions other than geographical boundaries, such as what grapes may be grown, maximum grape yields, alcohol level, and other quality factors, may also apply before an appellation name may legally appear on a wine bottle label. The rules that govern appellations are dependent on the country in which the wine was produced.
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.
The United States and each of the 50 states and 3,100 counties are wine appellations and can be used to identify the source of grapes grown in the United States.
Viticulture (from the Latin word for vine) is the science, production, and study of grapes.
An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a federally designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.
The Augusta AVA near the town of Augusta, Missouri, was the first recognized AVA, gaining the status on June 20, 1980. The Napa Valley AVA is perhaps the most famous and was the second AVA recognized. At the time of this writing, the Fountaingrove District AVA in Sonoma County, California is the most recent AVA, receiving final approval on March 20, 2015 and is the 229th AVA approved.
American Viticultural Areas range in size from the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA at 29,900 square miles (77,000 km2) across four states, to the Cole Ranch AVA in Mendocino County, California, at only 62 acres (25 ha).
"Sub-appellations" have been created within some AVAs, such as Napa Valley, creating smaller areas with distinctive growing conditions. Some "super-appellations" have also been created, such as North Coast in California, that contain large regions encompassing many smaller appellations.
Appellations are used on wine labels to identify the origin of the grapes used to produce the wine. If the label identifies a specific grape variety (varietal), such as Chardonnay, then the label must identify the appellation where the grapes were grown.
When a vineyard lies within several appellations, the wine producer can choose which of the applicable appellations to use on the wine label.
Wine and Wineries has a page for each of these appellations (both political boundaries and American Viticultural Areas). Use the appellation navigation toolbar at the top of this page to select an appellation and visit the corresponding page.
The counties currently implemented on this site are indicated on the Countries page.
We will add information on the appelations in other countries based on demand. Please contact the webmaster to suggest countries you would like to see added.