North Carolina’s wine industry recently got a PR boost with a federally-designated, AVA wine district. AVA stands for American Viticultural Area and the new wine region is in the Appalachian High Country AVA.
This mountainous wine region encompasses 2,400 acres and is home to ten vineyards. Eight are in North Carolina and two are in Tennessee and Virginia.
“The federal government looks for a proven track record for quality grape growing so you have to have a sustained industry in place in the region before you can achieve the designation,” said Whit Winslow is executive director of the North Carolina Wine and Grape Council.
Winslow says the region is conducive to grape growing because it has all the things grapes love—more than half of the area is above 3,000 feet, the temperatures are cooler, the soil is rockier and it has great inclines.
“The slopes are on average about 30 degree grade and that makes for unique growing conditions because of the drainage that will take place and the change in elevation the slopes will cause within the same vineyard,” Winslow said.
The vineyards in the Appalachian AVA have been around for 10 years or less. Winslow characterizes North Carolina’s wine industry overall as fairly young but still, it’s a nearly $2 billion business. He predicts that the AVA designation, a several year process, will boost wine-making significantly in the new district.
“Right now there are four vineyards in planning just since the process of planning this AVA began. That alone goes to the testament of what this region is capable of,” he said.
There are now five AVA wine districts in the state. It helps with branding because vineyard owners get to put their designated region’s name on bottle labels, but only if 85 percent of the grapes used in the wine come from that specific area.