Wine Labels – An AVA Within an Appellation

The history surrounding the governmental regulation of wine labels in the US is a a fascinating one. The current federal agency that regulates the alcoholic beverage industry is the TTB. (Alchohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.) Their regulations in regards to wine labels and the specifics of the items that appear on them are actually only about 30 years old. (In their current versions.) This includes the definition and use of AVAs. AVAs first came into existence in 1980. Though 56% of all the US AVAs are in California, you may be surprised to know that the very first AVA is actually in Missouri. The AVA of Augusta (in Missouri) was formally established in June of 1980. Number 2 on the list after it is the Napa Valley AVA which was established in 1981.

Since then in the years spanning from 1981 til 2007 over 180 additional AVAs were established across the country in 30 states. The current total is now at 196. If you are interested in seeing the complete list with date and full description details they can be found on the TTB’s website at and following the AVA link.

There are a number of factors that wine consumers use in making their purchasing decisions. One of those criteria is tied to the use of an appellation on the label. In particular in many cases the use of an AVA as their use though not specifically defined as a quality indicator is often seen as one. However as a result of the growth in the number of AVAs and their customers not necessarily being familiar with the “where” of all of them wineries have begun placing the county name directly below the AVA name on their labels. Doing so acts as a further geographic guide to the consumer viewing that label to whom for example “Horse Heaven Hills” has no meaning. (A southeastern Washington AVA)

Wineries want to do whatever they can to make their product stand out and have appeal for their audience. The wine label acts as the marquee for doing just that. The use of AVAs on labels holds strong appeal to wineries as can be seen in relation to the ongoing increase in their numbers. However until all of the newer AVA names become household terms to the masses of wine consumers the addition of the county name next to it may continue to be seen.

Ann has been directly involved in the wine industry for over 20 years. Her background began with pouring wine and since then has encompassed all areas of wine production from lab and cellar work through developing compliance systems.. Willamette Valley wine tours

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