Midwest gets nation's largest AVA

You may not know the wine appellation "Upper Mississippi River Valley" now, but watch for it on wine labels at your favorite purveyor in the coming months.

It is the newest federally-approved American Viticulture Area (AVA) -- and the nation's largest, cutting through 29,914 square miles of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. The largest AVA had been the 26,000-square-mile Ohio River Valley.

The new designation comes as a response to wine and agriculture officials from the four states petitioned the U.S. Alcohol Tobacco and Tax and Trade Bureau, which designates AVAs, such as Napa and Finger Lakes.

The new region works as a specific geographic area, a necessary criterium, because, unlike much of the flat plains of the Midwest, the Upper Mississippi River Valley is covered with steep slopes and well-drained soil required to grow premium grapes, usually various hybrids since the harsh winters wreak havoc on less hardy grapes as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay.

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