It's often heard that Californians are serious about wine and relaxed about everything else. Well, maybe not everything else, but when you're surrounded by natural wonder and constant sunshine, it's pretty easy to smile. Of course, a glass of California wine always helps.
Every bottle of Californian wine lists the geographical origin or appellation and where the grapes were grown. Appellations are defined either by political boundaries, such as the name of a county, or by federally recognised growing regions, called American Viticultural Areas or AVAs.
For a wine to carry an AVA name on its label, at least 85% of the grapes must be grown in that AVA; for county appellations, that number is 75%. And any wine bearing “California” or any California AVA or appellation guarantees that 100% of the grapes are grown in the Golden State.
California's abundant sunshine ensures a consistent and long grape growing season, while the diversity of the terroir supports a multitude of wine grape varieties and surprising flavour variation within them. California’s 800 miles of rugged coastline expose nearby vineyards to natural cooling in the form of morning fog and breezes, making for exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties. Warmer interior valleys receive the same cooling effect thanks to rivers and lakes. And vines planted along the hillsides get a fine blend of cooling air and bright sunshine that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot thrive in.
The soils are as diverse as our growing regions. Sand, clay, loam, granite, volcanic ash, seabed soil, river-run gravel each contributing its own distinct minerality. And the winemakers are no less varied. Since the 1700s, people from all over the world have settled in California, bringing their vines and their skills with them. Hard-earned secrets of soil, climate and vine have been passed from generation to generation, providing California wine with its unique legacy and spectacular range.