One of the highlights of my year is being invited to participate as a judge in the wine competition at the Arkansas State Fair and Livestock Show.
This year’s competition continued to impress, the wines surpassing those from the past several years. The wines are judged blind, meaning the judges do not know which winery’s sample they are judging. This ensures they are scored based solely on the wine.
The wines were categorized as “AVA” and “non-AVA.” As with most wine labeling, our homegrown wines can be just as confusing when it comes to understanding those label terms.
American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) were established in 1979 and are “official” grape-growing areas in the United States. About 200 AVAs exist, with new areas approved yearly.
They are geographic areas that have similar climate, geology, soils, physical features or elevation. They are established through a petition to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau by growers and wineries. There are no limits to an area’s size, grapes grown, viticulture practices, or winemaking procedures, and one AVA may exist within another. When an AVA designation appears on a wine label, at least 85 percent of the juice from which the wine was produced must have come from the designated AVA.
According to Encyclopedia of Arkansas and the bureau, three AVAs exist in Arkansas. Ozark Mountain AVA, established in 1986, is the seventh largest in the United States at 3,520,000 acres and extends into Oklahoma and Missouri. Arkansas Mountain AVA, also established in 1986, is 2,880,000 acres, while Altus AVA is the smallest and oldest area, established in 1984 and comprising 46,000 acres. Both the Arkansas Mountain and Altus AVAs are within Ozark Mountain AVA.
As for the winners of the competition, some wines are produced in limited quantities; you will need to contact the winery directly for pricing and availability.
And the winners are …
AVA GRAND CHAMPION
- NV Cowie Winery Robert’s Port Reserve, Paris, Ark.; (479) 963-3990, cowiewinecellars.com
NON-AVA GRAND CHAMPION
- 2014 Post Familie Traditional Red, Altus, Ark.; (800) 275-8423, postfamilie.com