Regions and Appellations USA

American Wine

The United States has confidently come of age as one of the world's top wine-producing nations. Its reputation may be founded on the global fame of Napa and Sonoma, but the U.S. is home to countless lesser-known wine regions producing world-class wines (obvious examples include Oregon's Willamette Valley and the New York Finger Lakes). Wine has been made in The States for around 400 years, but it is only in the last 40 that American wine really began to earn respect on a global scale. The U.S. is now the world's fourth-biggest wine-producing nation (behind France, Italy and Spain) and produces roughly 18.5 million hectoliters each year.

All 50 U.S states produce wine to some extent, although 95 percent of it comes from just four of them. California is by far the most prolific, producing five times more than the combined total of the next three: Washington, Oregon and New York. The 5 percent that comes from the other states, led by Texas and Virginia, is produced largely for local consumption rather than national or international markets. The topographical, geological and climatic diversity of the American continent has provided the states with all manner of vine-growing conditions, from higher-altitude, continental climes (e.g. Fair Play) to coastal, fog-laden areas (e.g. Edna Valley).

Stars & Stripes: Symbolic of the States

Wine has been produced in the U.S. since the early 17th century, when European colonization began in earnest. Repeated attempts were made by the early settlers, who brought with them the winemaking knowledge and practices of their European homelands. The various vine species native to North America (such as Vitis labrusca) were known to be both robust and high-yielding, so very few vine plants accompanied these migrants on their voyage across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, these native vine species produced wines which matched neither the style nor the quality to which European settlers were accustomed.

European vinifera vines were not shipped to the Americas in any quantity until the mid-17th century. These invariably suffered at the hands of native pests (e.g. phylloxera) and fungal diseases. Over the next three centuries, it became clear that vine breeding and grafting were the keys to establishing a balance between manageable vines and palatable wines. Today, almost every wine-bearing vine in the U.S. is either a hybrid variety (e.g. Seyval Blanc) or a vinifera vine scion grafted onto the rootstock of a native (phylloxera-resistant) variety.

The United States’ wine industry has had something of a rollercoaster ride ever since the Californian gold rush of the 1840s, which created massive demand for wine and led to widespread vineyard plantings all over the state. This knee-jerk reaction sparked a volatile cycle of surplus and deficit which lasted for several decades.

The first half of the 20th century brought Prohibition, economic depression and war, collectively suffocating the American wine industry. It wasn't until significant social, cultural and economic development set in after World War 2 that things began to change. In the 1970s, the leading lights of the Californian wine industry brought about renewed winemaking interest across the U.S., ultimately sparking the national wine renaissance. This period saw a proliferation of new, small-scale wineries throughout the country and the upscaling of longer-established operations and created significant momentum, which carried the industry well into the 21st century.

Regional identity is as important to wine in the U.S. as it is in Europe. The concept is embodied by the country’s 200 or so officially demarcated AVAs. Although these are similar to European-style appellations, there are crucial differences: where most European appellations directly govern geographical, viticultural and oenological factors, AVA titles are less restrictive, and indicate only the region of origin (i.e. where the grapes were grown). The AVAs, more than half of which are in California, vary in size from one quarter of a square mile to almost 30,000 square miles (77,700 square kilometers).

For further wine information on each state, its wines and its AVAs, please use the menu to the left.

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Most Popular American Wine

Based on search frequency, updated monthly
Wine Name
Avg Price
Opus One, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 5th 94 $405
Caymus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 29th 90 $88
Blanton's The Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, USA Whiskey Bourbon 30th $118
Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 35th 96 $3,681
Harlan Estate, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 36th 97 $1,114
Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 45th 94 $256
Dominus Estate Christian Moueix, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 47th 95 $270
George T. Stagg Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, USA Whiskey Bourbon 63rd 91 $756
Seaver Vineyards GTS Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 87th 92 $499
Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 88th 94 $233
Stagg JR Barrel Proof Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, USA Whiskey Bourbon 91st $171
Old Forester 'Birthday Bourbon' Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, USA Whiskey Bourbon 98th 90 $968
Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 110th 93 $193
Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 111th 95 $326
W. L. Weller 12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon Whiskey, USA Whiskey Bourbon 114th $274
William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, USA Whiskey Bourbon 136th 92 $1,575
Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 143rd 89 $138
Blanton's Gold Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, USA Whiskey Bourbon 158th $243
Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 160th 89 $90
Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, USA Cabernet Sauvignon 166th 95 $825
Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, USA Whiskey Bourbon 167th 89 $96
Michter's US-1 Limited Release Toasted Barrel Finish Rye Whiskey, USA Whiskey - Rye 175th $314
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, USA Whiskey Bourbon 180th 90 $81
Opus One Overture, Napa Valley, USA Bordeaux Blend Red 187th 91 $141
Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Sour Mash Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, USA Whiskey Bourbon 188th 90 $310
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To see how Wine-Searcher uses average pricing and professional wine critic scores on this page, please see Average Wine Prices and Wine Scores. To find out about popularity, please see Wine Ranks.
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