"American Wine" has existed since the first Europeans brought their vinous heritage and traditions to these shores from the Old World. In that sense, Appellation America is over 400 years old. American wine has endured ecological, political and social hardships over the centuries, but it has evolved with each challenge.
Up to the late 1800s, the vine thrived in America, with the epicenter of winemaking in the Midwest along the banks of the Ohio River and shores of Lake Erie. At the turn of the last century phylloxera and Prohibition would together transform the viticultural landscape of America. In the 20th century, California would emerge as America’s dominate wine state (now producing 90% of the national total), but by the dawn of the 21st century winemaking would spread to every state in the union, with grapes grown in all but four. Across the 50 states exists the world's greatest diversity of climates, and virtually every species of vine can find a niche somewhere in America. Today, native, European, Asian, and hybrid varieties flourish in America, with upwards of 3000 wineries producing a vast array of wine types and styles. The United States now ranks as the world’s 4th largest producer of wine with some 600 million gallons annually. Internationally, American wines are recognized as the equal of Old World wine powers like France and Italy, and the United States has more recently grown to be the 9th largest exporter of wine globally.
As wine drinkers, Americans have progressed from knowing their wines by generic and producer names, to varietal names, and since the early 1980’s a small but important movement towards appellation recognition has started to stir in the consciousness of American wine consumers. The "appellation-ization" of the American wine culture is gaining momentum, now with over 200 legally recognized American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
As far as the TTB (Tax & Trade Bureau) is concerned, any home-grown wine is eligible for labeling under the “America” appellation-of-origin; however, in practice, the use of America as an appellation is more often utilized for wines with less than 75% of their grapes originating from a single state – essentially wines that are multi-state blends. Still, for some producers in nascent winegrowing states, the use of appellation America is seen as a more marketable appellation-of-origin than even their own state name...which is too bad, since local pride and winegrowing should go hand-in-hand!