American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) are designated geographical regions in the United States where wine grapes grow well. Usually, a certain grape or group of grapes will thrive there and natural barriers like mountains or rivers separate the regions. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) defines the regions for tax and marketing purposes, i.e. Napa Valley and Finger Lakes.
When the North Carolina wine industry was starting to emerge around 1996, the state had no AVAs, something it desperately wanted. AVAs help wine makers describe the origin of their wines and help consumers to identify the wines they want to buy. They also allow wineries to market their wines as a group and reach a wider purchasing audience.
Since that time, North Carolina has grown to become a leading wine state with over 180 wineries and five AVAs. The first of these was the Yadkin Valley AVA established in February 2003. Since then four more have come into being, the most recent of which is the Appalachian High Country AVA established in October 2016.
The North Carolina AVAs are:
- Yadkin Valley AVA
- Swan Creek AVA
- Haw River Valley AVA
- Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA (shared with Georgia)
- Appalachian High Country AVA (shared with Virginia and Tennessee)
The Appalachian High Country AVA roughly follows the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway through the North Carolina mountains. The region includes wineries in both Tennessee and Virginia, as well as eight wineries in North Carolina.
The North Carolina wineries are:
- Banner Elk Winery and Villa
- Grandfather Vineyard & Winery
- Linville Falls Winery
- Plumtree Valley Vineyards
- Raven Rock Vineyards
- Roaring River Vineyards
- Spencer Mountain Vineyards
- Thistle Meadow Winery
The region has the distinction of being one of the highest average elevations east of the Mississippi River. Vineyards are planted at between 2,290 and 4,630 feet above sea level. More than half of them are planted at elevations above 3,000 feet, with slopes of 30 degrees or more. In fact, one winery, Grandfather Vineyard & Winery in Banner Elk has named one of their wines 58° Fusion for the slope of the vineyard in which the grapes are grown.
AVA designations have definitely had an impact on the growth of the North Carolina wine industry, just as they have on other wine producing states. From an AVA, wine trails develop and more wineries are established. This makes finding southern wine even easier for us wine travelers.
To learn more about North Carolina wine and North Carolina AVAs, visit www.ncwine.org