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USA

Along with Californian Cabernets and Chardonnays, our attention – and our tastebuds – should be drawn to the Pinot noirs produced in Oregon. Very interesting wines are made here from this fussy grape variety which requires precise climatic conditions to thrive.

History

In around the year 1000 the Icelandic Viking Leif Eriksson sailed southward from Greenland and bumped into the coast of North America. According to the Saga of the Greenlanders, he found a land of rolling hills, abundant salmon and game, and many wild vines with gigantic berries, which is why he dubbed it "Vinland", the land of wine. Vines were to be found growing wild all over North America so the first settlers were able to make wine from them.
However, these wines had an unpleasant overtone referred to as foxy. Many attempts to plant European vines on the west coast ended in failure as the European vines were not resistant to the phylloxera found everywhere in all soils, the extremes of the climate and various diseases. Later attempts were made to grow hybrids (such as crosses between the American – resistant – labrusca variety and European vinifera vines) like Catawba and Concord, but the foxiness persisted. Towards the end of the 18th century, European immigrants in California grafted the first scion onto American rootstock and paved the way for a successful winemaking future. Around the turn of the century, winemaking expanded rapidly, especially in California. Most winegrowers were forced to give up during the prohibition years (1919–1933), before the industry saw a revival of its fortunes again in the 1930s. The USA experienced a veritable wine boom in the 1960s when lots of enthusiastic boutique wineries started to focus on producing small quantities of premium wines. This trend continued in the 1970s and 1980s.

Growing areas

The largest winegrowing region in the USA is California, followed by Oregon, Washington State and New York State. Wine is also produced in the other states (except for Alaska), but is usually only consumed locally.

Wines

The USA produces a wide variety of wines. The best wines are made from European grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir and Merlot for reds, and Sauvignon blanc and Chardonnay for white wines. Although wines made from native varieties are still produced, they are dwindling in importance.

Producers

Everything from small boutique wineries through to gigantic wine factories. The number of wine producers has tripled over the past 20 years and is now close to 100,000.

Vineyard area and production volume

Approximately 400 000 hectares, around 20 million hectolitres per year.