In a roomful of wine geeks—and I use that term lovingly, as I’m sure I’d be considered one—there are two topics that are guaranteed to get the tongues wagging:
- Do vintages really matter?
- Do appellations really matter?
We’ll save No. 1 for another day. Today, let’s consider appellations—those legally defined and delineated areas where winegrapes are grown.
Different countries have different systems, as well as different names for their systems. In France, these areas are called appellations. Here in the United States, they’re known as American Viticultural Areas.
And do they matter? I don’t know a single winemaker who would tell you that they don’t.
That’s why we not only have AVAs, but also AVAs within AVAs.
On March 7, a new AVA within an AVA becomes official in Southern Oregon. It will be known as “Elkton Oregon”—no comma between the two words for some unknown reason—and it’s located entirely within the existing “Umpqua Valley” AVA (which, incidentally, is located within the “Southern Oregon” AVA).
“We are in a basin here that traps the marine influence and keeps us cooler than the rest [of the Umpqua Valley AVA],” said River’s Edge Winery proprietor Michael Landt in this Wines & Vines story.
It’s an important distinction for Landt because the specialty of the house at River’s Edge is Pinot Noir, a variety that is known to prefer cooler climes. For those who know their California Pinot Noir, it’s similar to the difference between a Pinot from the cool Russian River Valley and one from the warmer Napa Valley. Both can be very good, but they will be different—and being able to print a more specific AVA on the label can make for better informed wine buyers/drinkers.
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the new “Elkton Oregon” AVA encompasses 74,900 acres in Douglas County.
The TTB also announced that wineries could use the name “Elkton, OR” on labels—yes, with a comma.