When 'Wine Country' Is Not an Exaggeration

    The United States now has the world’s largest wine appellation — the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA.

     Covering 29,914 square miles in parts of four states, the AVA averages 120 miles from east to west, and 225 miles from north to south.

     It encompasses some or all of ten counties in Minnesota, nine in Illinois, 18 in Iowa, and 23 in Wisconsin. The northern boundary begins near St. Paul, Minn., in the north and extends to Moline, Ill., in the south.

     The AVA is more than double the size of Wales, and 50 times larger than Bordeaux, Decanter points out.

     Representatives of the four states involved filed the AVA petition in 2006. It took effect yesterday.

     Lake Wisconsin, established in 1994, is the only AVA which currently lies within the new Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA.

     And it contains producers of some repute. The Wollersheim Winery of Prairie du Sac, Wis., for example, works with a range of grapes including Sangiovese and Bonarda, and has earned some 267 medals over the past 20 years.

     The application for the UMRV was based upon evidence of a glacial retreat 15,000 years ago. The resultant water flows combined with the St. Croix River and what became Lake Superior to form this bedrock.

     As federal tobacco subsidies have diminished, and wine consumption has risen in the U.S., many tobacco farmers, especially in Wisconsin, have switched over to growing grapes.

     Due to the abundance of cold and humidity, French and other hybrids dominate the region.

Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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