A mini guide, for the readers of Boutique Travel Blog, introducing some wonderful wines from the USA, written by Anna Von Bertele, wine specialist at Roberson Wine, of London.
America – that great power on the other side of the Atlantic with fantastic films, television, cities and food. It makes sense that the wine will be good too, however, until recently it has not been a large exporter to Europe. There is the obvious reason that Europe produces its own great wine, which is cheaper to buy and easier to ship, but also other historical factors: Prohibition in the 1920s, which prevented the manufacture and sale of alcohol and had a huge effect on the development of wineries, not to mention the problems caused by the vine killing pest phylloxera in the 1990s. Until recently, the wine that was produced was usually kept for Americans themselves. Lately though, more wineries have been founded, increasing production significantly. In 1970 there were only about 440 producers in the country, but over the last 40 years, this has increased to about 8,000! This means that the better British merchants are now able to bring an increasing variety of boutique American wines to our shores. These less familiar regions, however, can be confusing, so where do you start?
The obvious place is California – America has a winery in every single state, but mostly these are very small producers. California, on the other hand, accounts for 90% of America’s total wine production. If it were a country in itself this would make it the fourth biggest producer of wine in the world. The abundant sunshine, diverse terroir (soil, topography, and climate etc), a multitude of grape varieties (brought over with immigrants who settled in the area around 1700) and the cool coastal breeze, all add up to very favourable vine conditions.
There are many different sub-regions within the state of California, the most well-known ones being: Napa Valley, which is slightly inland, so a bit warmer, providing good conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon and very high quality wines (that make up 20% of the value of the state’s wine, though only 4% of the volume); Dry Creek Valley, known for its Zinfandel; Carneros, Russian River Valley and the Central Coast, all making good quality Pinot Noir (helped in to the spotlight by the film Sideways) and Chardonnay thanks to a cooler climate.
Other regions worth noting
The other states produce wine in much smaller quantities, though some are joining California in making it over the Atlantic Ocean. Oregon has a wide array of quality boutique wineries, many of which are organic, and the wines of Washington state are now not far behind. On the east coast, the Finger Lakes region in New York is exciting, experimenting with more unusual grape varieties – two-thirds of the wineries are less than 15 years old and look very promising for the future. If you prefer more fruit-driven, less alcoholic wines, then Central Virginia is the place to look for something a bit different – it has a winemaking history dating back to Thomas Jefferson himself.