US History

America the FREE!

In Modules 2 and 3, DOMSOM covered the most widely sold white and red wines in the US.  With each varietal, you learned key characteristics of wines produced in the US compared to their European counterparts, or Old World “cousins”.  US winemakers have much greater flexibility to create their wines, with the freedom to use one grape varietal and leverage between different vineyards, multiple harvests, varying fermentation vessels, post-fermentation influences and blends with other varietals to create exactly the expression they desire in the resulting wine.  

Jock Busser from Chateau Montelena explains the benefit of U.S. wine laws allowing wine makers great flexibility to create diverse and unique wine styles other countries do not have the flexibility to make.

In the three largest wine making countries ahead of the US, there are much stricter regulations addressing details from which wines can be grown where, how the wines are fermented, how long they must age, and how they can be labeled.  The rules are complex and often change region to region within the same country.  Many have existed for centuries.  While this may seem highly restrictive, the intent of the regulations is to ensure consumers get what they expect from a wine and, more critically, to prevent fraudulent behaviors such as impostor or imitators of coveted wines throughout the globe.

America the free…  winemaking included!  In Module 1, we introduced you to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), a governmental organization with a charter to regulate and collect taxes on alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and ammunition and to assure compliance with Federal alcohol permitting, labeling, and marketing requirements and wine regulations designed to protect consumers.  Here are some of the winemaking laws governed by the TTB in the US:

  • Labeling and Advertising, including varietal indication
  • AVAs
  • Alcoholic Beverage Warnings
  • Wine distribution
  • Taxes and permits
  • Wine production
  • Exporting wine

Despite the rules and regs, US winemakers still maintain great flexibility in blending and styles. They can experiment with new winemaking techniques and technologies, growing varietals in locations determined by the farmer and winemaker, not by a governing body.  Additionally, they can leverage a broad range of winemaking influences before, during and after fermentation giving consumers tremendous variety in wine styles coupled with the excitement of being able to try something new with every wine selection.