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Quick, what's America's biggest wine region? If you answered California's Napa Valley, you're way off - thanks to a federal ruling that creates a new region starting today.
It's the Upper Mississippi River Valley, covering a whopping 29,914 square miles and encompassing portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. That's 39 times the Napa Valley's 759 or so square miles. The new region is huge news for midwestern vintners.
American Viticulture Areas, or AVAs, recognize a unique grape-growing region that may be historically known and that contains specific geological features. The new region was created after area wine and agriculture officials petitioned the Alcohol Tobacco and Tax and Trade Bureau, which controls the designations. Use of an AVA isn't a stamp of approval, but many consumers like the idea of buying wine from a specific area, following the French concept of "terroir" -- that wine should reflect the character of the land it came from.
Ninety years ago, Iowa was sixth in grape production in the US but that was with the Concord grape, associated with sweeter wines, not today's drier, more food-friendly wines. The wine industry re-emerged in the last decade, surprising some with medals in national competitions. Though the region is big, the wine industry there is small - but growing rapidly.
Are you excited about Wisconsin grown wines?