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What Is An Appellation

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | March 05, 2012

By definition, an Appellation is a geographical name or area (such as a region or vineyard) where a winegrower is authorized to identify and market wine. The word Appellation comes from the French Appellation d'Origine Controlee laws, which are laws meant to ensure quality within specific regions of France. It refers to a protected name where a wine may be sold, designating that the grapes used are of a specific kind from a specific district.

In France and Appellation is called an "Appellation of Origin" (AOC) and it refers to a specific wine growing area or region and often suggests at the varietals grown there, the methods used and the winemaking styles. In the United States, the Appellations are referred to as "American Viticultural Areas" (AVAs) and they are recognized, designated grape growing regions.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau provides a current list of the AUTHORIZED WINE APPELLATIONS OF ORIGIN — U.S. Viticultural Areas. This list Provides the Appellation Name, State Location, and type of Appellation (Viticultural Area (Government Recognized Grape Growing Area) or U.S. State or County of Foreign Equivalent), along with the last date of entry.

An AVA is an American Viticultural Area that has been recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau ( for a unique combination of soil, climate, and identifiable regional wine character. Wine labels which must be pre-approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. AVAs are often referred to as appellations or districts, such as the Napa Valley Appellation. Appellations of origin are usually only required for grape wine.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau defines an Appellation as: Under U.S. regulations (specifically 27 CFR 4.25), an appellation of origin is:

  • A country
  • A U.S. state or the foreign equivalent
  • For U.S. wine, a listing of up to 3 states (multi-state appellation)
  • A U.S. county or the foreign equivalent
  • For U.S. wine, a listing of up to 3 counties (multi-county appellation)
  • A U.S. or foreign government recognized delimited grape-growing area (referred to as a “viticultural area” under U.S. regulations)

On a bottle of wine, the Appellation information usually appears just above the varietal information (Varietal means that a wine is produced from one variety of grape and carries the name of that grape). It may be important for you to understand the Appellation (or AVA) information on a bottle of wine if you are looking for the factors that influence the wine’s character. Knowing the Appellation information (such as region, climate and soil) may help direct you towards the type of flavors you are looking for in a wine.

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