The term AVA is short for "American Viticultural Area". AVA's are official wine grape growing regions of the United States designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. In order for a region to be approved as an AVA, it must be able to prove its identity as a unique physiographic region and as a region that is beneficial to grape growing. Some of the criteria used by the federal government to determine whether an area meets this standard include distinct climate, soil type, and elevation and other physical features as well as a history of wine grape growing.
When an AVA designation appears on a wine label at least 85% of that wine must come from within that AVA boundary. The AVA designation on a wine label usually appears just above the grape varietal description. The AVA designation does not limit the types of grapes grown, crop yield or methods of vinification as do some foreign wine appellation designations. The term appellation is sometimes used to describe a wine's origin but it is not the same as an AVA. Appellations often represent a broader area and do not have to meet the federal requirements for an AVA. Thus, all AVA's are appellations, but not all appellations are AVA's. For example, a state or county name may be used as an appellation on a wine label but they are not AVA's.