Arizona is located in the far south-west of the United States of America, bordered by Mexico to the south and southern California to the west. It covers 114,000 square miles (300,000 sq km) and stretches between latitudes 31°N and 36°N.
The key varieties used to make Arizona wines are Syrah, Viognier, Muscat and, of course, the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. They perform best in cooler areas, particularly in the southwest.
Grapevines have been grown in Arizona for more than 400 years, originally by Spanish missionaries who required wine for religious purposes. This is a common story all over the United States – particularly in the south and west – and also in South American countries.
Although Arizona was almost entirely devoid of viticulture after Prohibition, the industry has since undergone something of a renaissance. There are now two subregional AVAs with hopes and plans for a third, and the wines are beginning to gain notice internationally.
Growing conditions, subregions and AVAs
Despite its long viticultural history, Arizona has not developed into a major wine reason for the simple reason that its hot, dry climate results in too short a growing season. The grapes therefore can rarely attain suitable levels of phenolic ripeness and tend to have high sugar levels and low acidity.
However, there are areas of Arizona that lie at increased elevations (its finest vineyards sit at 5000ft/1525m), where high sunshine levels are tempered by cooler temperatures and more-pronounced diurnal temperature variations. Accordingly wine producers are grouped in three main areas.
The Sonoita AVA (American Viticultural Area) is one of these locations where producers are turning out quality wines in the style of the warmer European regions such as France's Southern Rh?ne Valley. The appellation was established as early as 1985, and lies in the southeast of the state, around 40 miles (65km) southeast of Tuscson.
Willcox AVA is much newer, coming into existence in 2016. It also lies in the southeast of the state in the north of Cochise County, the south of Graham County and the northern part of Sulphur Springs Valley.
In addition, the dozen or so wineries in Verde Valley (and along its tributary Oak Creek) are campaigning to become the state's third AVA. This group of wineries lie around the towns of Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Cornville.
Arizona beer and spirits
The state boasts around three dozen breweries. As with many other US states, a high proportion of these have been established in the last decade or so as part of the global boom in craft beer.
There are also around 18 distilling operations. Key products include vodka,rum and whiskey; some of the better known examples of the latter (eg Del Bac Distillers) are made in Scottish Single Malt Whisky style rather than Bourbon.