AOC, DOC, AVA… what?

As a wine drinker, you’ve probably seen some combination of letters on bottles and labels. These acronyms represent some of the intense and crazy laws that major wine-producing countries have in place to protect their precious liquid commodity. While you don’t need to worry about knowing what every set of letters stand for, you should be at least somewhat familiar with them because they can be an easy indicator of quality. Believe it or not, these controlled appellations are not set in stone, and new areas are often awarded these designations.

In the United States, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is responsible for approving all new American Viticultural Areas (AVA), though this takes some serious petitioning by interested individuals or groups that want their unique wine regions officially recognized.

Let’s take a closer look at one of California’s newest AVAs: the Petaluma Gap located in Sonoma County.

This region takes its name from a gap in the coastal mountain section of Petaluma that gives direct access to the Pacific Ocean. The wind and fog that flow through the vineyards here make it ideal for growing cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and even Syrah. It is important to note that new appellations, no matter where in the world they’re located, have a rich history of grape growing and wine production. The Petaluma Gap area has a viticultural history of over 150 years and has been used as a source of premier grapes for wineries throughout the state of California. Until now, these wines had to use the more generic Sonoma County AVA.

The Petaluma Gap AVA was designated in December 2017, so keep an eye out for wines from this brand spanking new appellation.