For anyone interested in wine, “American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States,” by British wine writer Jancis Robinson and California-based writer Linda Murphy is a much-needed overview of what’s going on all over the country right now. Take this statistic: As recently as 1970, there were 440 wine producers in the U.S. Want to take a guess how many there are now? More than 7,000 when the book was written.
“Today there is not a state in the union, even in such unlikely outposts for the vine as Hawaii and Alaska, that is not home to a winery.” She goes on to say that “In the last two decades or so, wine has moved from the fringes of American culture — the drink of elites and immigrants — to the center of the table.”
In her introduction, Robinson notes re: wine in the U.S., “There’s an energetic enthusiasm for experiencing its pleasures and nuances, and a genuine curiosity about the complexities of how it is grown and made that I sense nowhere else in the world.”
Within its 278 pages, read up on the latest AVAs (American Viticultural Area). Yorkville? Anderson Valley and Alexander Valley. Red Hills? Lake County. Rock Pile? A sub-AVA of Dry Creek Valley. That’s just California. If we’re talking New Jersey, it’s Outer Coastal Plain. Or Washington state, Wahluke Slope.
We Californians tend to take a myopic view — after all our state produces a tremendous amount of wine and accounted for some $22 billion in wine sales in 2012 (according to the Wine Institute). In the book, we find out that if California were a country, it would be fourth-largest wine-producing country in the world. Impressive, no? In fact, the authors’ exploration of California wine regions and its myriad AVAs takes up a good half of the book.
"American Wine" is not a wine guide, though. You won’t find an annotated list of producers and wines. But you will get the big picture, maybe for the first time, in each part of the country. Who knew that Nebraska was one of the fastest-growing new viticultural states? Guess when the very first winery there was founded? Oh, way back in — 1994. Just as surprising, the state that ranks seventh in wine production in the United States. Answer: North Carolina.
Photos: 13 big bold, juicy red wines
I’m awed by how much information and statistics the authors have marshaled into order, shining a light on lesser known viticultural regions of the country. Not exactly a page-turner, "American Wine" is a reference work especially useful for readers in the wine business or anyone studying for the Master Sommelier exam.