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New AVAs won’t confuse consumers, insist winemakers

Wine producers in the newly-created American Viticultural Areas of Moon Mountain and Ballard Canyon have insisted the new sub-appellations will help consumers, not confuse them.

This week, before succumbing to the US Government shutdown, the US Tax & Trade Bureau approved four new American Viticultural Areas (AVA).

Alongside Moon Mountain District (pictured) in Sonoma County and Ballard Canyon in Central Coast’s Santa Barbara, the AVAs of Big Valley and Kelsey Bench, in Lake County north of Napa Valley, also got the green light.

The move follows criticism earlier this year that the proliferation of AVAs could confuse consumers as to the wine’s origin. Historically, this has been a common complaint aimed at the appellation system in Old World countries, and particularly France.

The AVA system in the US is defined by unique geography, climate and historical significance.

‘There are only so many sub-appellations you can jam into California before consumers give up,’ conceded Peter Stolpman, of Stolpman Vineyards and whose family has been instrumental in establishing the identity of Ballard
Canyon, the third sub-appellation of the much larger Santa Ynez Valley.

However, for Stolpman, the AVA is an opportunity for greater clarity. He hopes consumers will come to associate Ballard Canyon with Rhone varieties, specifically Syrah, and believes the handful of other producers in the area agree.

‘It gives the consumer a greater sense of choice,’ added Phil Coturri, a prominent viticulturist in Sonoma and Moon Mountain over the past 30 years.

Moon Mountain sits squarely within the larger Sonoma Valley AVA. ‘These are mountain-grown grapes with defining tastes and flavours, that are distinctly different than valley floor counterparts,’ said Coturri.

He hopes to eventually create a form of voluntary quality control among winemakers on yields and production.

Prior to this week, the AVA of Sonoma County had 15 sub-AVAs.

Written by Courtney Humiston

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