WSET Bitesize – What are the USA’s main wine regions

Um hello and welcome uh everybody to This uh webinar on American wine regions Uh my name is Edward Wicks I'm an Educator for the WSET teaching wine and Spirit qualifications uh the wsct of Course is the world's leading provider Of qualifications and courses in wine Spirits and sake uh WSET Um has now got over 50 years of Experience in designing and delivering These qualifications in over 70 Countries through a network of 800 Course providers over 800 course Providers our qualifications are Available in 15 languages as well so Very exciting if you are interested in Finding out more and starting your wsct Learning please visit wsct to Find your nearest provider just a bit of Housekeeping this webinar of course will Be recorded and will then be available To watch uh back on the wsct global Events Hub on our YouTube Um during the webinar if you have any Questions please do post them in the Q a Box and at the end I will try and cover As many as possible Um so yes we'll put that out of the way Thank you and welcome again uh and Especially to our American audience I Wish you all a very happy Fourth of July Um perfect timing to do this webinar on Uh some of the key American wine regions Just a brief uh moment of uh to go over

The kind of history of American Viticulture and grape growing Um so the first kind of European Explorers that arrived in America are Actually Viking Um approximately about 500 years before Christopher Columbus in about 1000 A.D Leif Erickson Um arrived and they were startled at the Amount of vines that were growing Um in America and kind of the north east Kind of uh New England and kind of Canadian area Um of North America uh so they named it Finland Um in in regards to this Now these Vine species that were growing In North America were different to the Species of Vine that we're suitable that Evolved in Europe and Asia Um and is the grape varieties that we're Familiar with are all mostly part of This erasion kind of species Um the American species were not so Suitable for wine production had some Very unusual Aromas when when turned Into into wine Um so it fast forward 600 or so years Later because of Um these unusual Aromas Further settlers from Europe brought Over great varieties they were familiar With and started planting Vineyards uh Across their uh new

Um new areas that they'd settled Um it further onto this it wasn't really Until about the 1780s so later part of The 1700s that uh Vines were started to Being planted in California and this is Very important California is now the by Far the most largest producer of American wines uh the climate is Particularly suitable so this can really Be the epicenter of where vines really Started to spread and had great success In producing fantastic quality It wasn't all easy sailing Um in the previous Century the early Part of the 1900s prohibition laws were Introduced Across America uh that really Hampered the amount that was being Produced and really negatively affected The quality of wines for several decades That were being produced and it wasn't Really until more modern times when These laws after these laws were Repealed that producers were able to Really pick up the ball again and start Um getting back onto the world stage and Producing superb quality wines Fast forward to today uh America is now The fourth largest grower of grapes Um after uh the powerhouses of Italy Spain and France and Europe so it's Hugely important area for Quality wines that are exported across The world So this very large amount where we're

Going to be looking Um we're going to be looking in three Key areas California is going to be our Focus as I said 85 of all wines come From California so it's going to be the Most uh crucial to kind of get our heads Around The Pacific Northwest states of Oregon And Washington combined produced about 6.5 of American wines so much smaller But really important areas for quality Wine production and getting a lot of Attention And then over to the north east on the Atlantic coast New York States Um produces about 3.5 of All American Wines so uh again small compared to the The big Powerhouse but um still very Important for some quality wines that We'll talk about So uh California and it's the kind of Um The large areas that we can find under Vine uh here and it's really due to Um the particular climate that we have That makes it very suitable for for the Production of quality wines we have Areas further inland That are significantly warmer we see This large kind of depression between The mountains to the east uh and the Kind of coastal mountains that you can See here and this area is known as the Central Valley

And this produces over half of all Californian wines it's very warm uh very Fertile soils so it's fantastic for a Lot of Agriculture including grape Growing and here we can see a huge range Of Styles Um going from our more inexpensive Mass-market Um favorites to small pockets of Premium Quality wines as well Um a lot of focus that people will talk About on Californian wines would be the Kind of more coastal areas further away From this uh Central Valley close to the Coast Um there is a very cold Pacific Ocean Current that travels past uh the west Coast of California and this really Helps cool Vineyards quite drastically Giving a range of different micro Climates That can result in many different styles Of wine being produced from a great Variety of grape varieties Um and this is going to be shown in Various different ways but one of the Most kind of drastic and impactful Features of this cooling effect from the Coast is these large uh ocean fogs that Move in land Um and Kind of blankets our Vineyards in this Cold air and really helps cool down our Growing

Um over the course of the day these fogs Settle overnight and are present in the Morning but over the course of the day The heat of the sun dissipates these Fogs and it gets much much warmer but That that rest bite from that intense Sun can really help provide us freshness And acidity in certain grape varieties Uh one in particular Pinot Noir this is A great variety it's the third most Planted it's a great Variety in California Um but it really does require Um the coolest parts of of the state There's a great variety that is Notorious for having very high levels of Acidity Um low to medium levels of tannins and Some very intense uh red fruit Characteristics Will generally find American Producers Aging their quality Pinot noirs in Oak Barrels to give that nice vanillary kind Of characteristic So as I said this is a great variety That requires Um the kind of coolest most Coastal Sites so we'll see Sonoma County Especially the south of Cinema which We'll see a little bit later Um closest to uh the the ocean being Most suitable for the production of Pinot noirs Um and even though it's much further to

The South uh Santa Barbara County Um gets an awful lot of this Coastal Influence lots of these cooling fogs and Cooling winds that come off the coast And Um produces some really exceptional and Um very fresh fruited Pinot noirs in Particular So yeah I wanted to really focus on two Important valleys today Sonoma and Napa Valleys uh so we saw the kind of the Lower end of The Valleys in the previous Slide being really suitable for Pinot Wire production and that's because of San Pablo Bay Um which is allowing some of this Cooling influence these fogs and these Winds to really kind of penetrate the Southern end of these valleys And these cooling effects can help being Drawn up The Valleys to give some kind Of cooler sites slightly further to the North But as we go further north in these Valleys Um the surrounding mountains really Protect and shelter these values from Our cooling effects so we're going to See Um our Vineyards get progressively Warmer the further north we're going to Go so the northern and Central parts of Napa Valley and the Northern parts of Sonoma are are going to be less suitable

For Pinot Noir production and more Suitable for grape varieties that are Able to tolerate a much warmer kind of Climate And the main grain of grape varieties We're going to see in places like this And across California and in many parts Across America uh are chardonnay Chardonnay is our most planted great Variety We're generally going to see quite ripe Flavors we're going to see lots of ripe Almost cooked Apple lemon peachy Aromas Potentially even kind of tropical fruit Aromas like pineapple melon and mango in Our wines Um the acidity levels are really going To vary we we quite often see very high Levels of acidity but our warmer sites Like uh Central Valley or the Northern End of Napa we can see acidity kind of Drop into more medium levels For quality wine production we are Generally going to see a lot of vanilla And Oaky Aromas from long-term Maturation in barrels some of our more Less expensive uh more mid-price and and Affordable chardonnays may not see too Much of this kind of characteristic Um but it's certainly going to be Present in the majority of Premium Quality shops Cabernet Sauvignon is our second most Planted variety and plantings are

Increasing so it may well soon catch up And potentially overtake Chardonnay in Terms of planting in the state this is a Great variety again that really thrives In warmer climates Um needing more heat over the summer to Ripen especially as it has lots of Tannins that themselves Really need a long time on the vine Ripening so we're going to see lots and Lots of Tans develop this is a great Variety that even in warm climates will Be able to provide high levels of Acidity to help balance that high level Of tannin We're going to see lots of black fruit Flavors particularly black currants Um it's also a very herbaceous grape Variety so we'll see lots of herbal Aromas particularly kind of like a Mentholy almost eucalyptus mint Aroma in The state and lots of green bell pepper Aromas also Um Being being developed in many of our Wines this is a great variety that will Typically see lots of Oak maturation This helps soften the big intense tannic Structure of our grape variety and Whilst also providing us with some more Complexity and spicy Aromas from the oat Brows itself Wherever you find Cabernet Sauvignon World you're often going to find its

Best friend nilo Um Merlot is widely planted across California and is often going to be Blended with Cabernet Sauvignon it has Less tannins and less acidity Um being kind of moderate in both And it gives us a range of flavors very Plummy with red and black plums lots of Kind of blackberry fruits as well can be Developed in this warm climate Um like it's kind of more intense friend Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot really Benefits from some um added Aromas and Complexity from Barrel aging so it will Often be done Now Merlot here and Cabernet Sauvignon Cabinet Sovereign being incredibly Tannic incredibly acidic can sometimes Really benefit from the softening Effects of merlot and Merlot having less Tannins and less acidity can often Benefit from having a little bit more of An injection so these great Fighters as I said will often be found across the World in particularly in California In similar locations being Blended Together to create lots of different Styles that have the strengths of both So again on North Coast where we're Going to be really focusing Napa as I Said the southern end is is much cooler But as we move further north it gets Much warmer and this is where we're Going to find a large amounts of

Chardonnay uh Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot being planted Um Sonoma as it's closer to the coast is Going to have a few more distinct kind Of microclimates with some areas getting A bit more Um of that cooling effect from the ocean So our coastal areas are very suitable For Pinot Noir Um as we move Inland Um Russian River gets Um some cooler spots Um that make it suitable for some Pinot Noir production but also for the Production of Um grape varieties such as sauvignon Blanc which are quite widely planted in The state as well As we move further to the north Alexander Valley becomes warm again and This is more suitable for the production Of quite Um intense uh full-bodied Um Cabernet Sauvignon based wines and Merlot-based wines So a quick nod towards sauvignon blanc In uh California we see quite a Distinctive style uh being produced so In uh across the world we will often see Lots of intense floral notes and Herbaceous notes and we do get a quite a Bit of that green bell pepper and kind Of cut grass Aroma in our Sauvignon Blancs in America in California

Results lots of intense apple and citrus Aromas with very high levels of acidity Sauvignon blanc is often referred to as Fume Blanc in Um California Um and when we see fume Blanc on the Label we kind of quite often expect our Wines to have some Oak maturation it's Not always done like it is in many Premium chardonnays and Cabernet Sovereigners in the States but it is a Quite distinctive style Um that adds that typical Aromas of of Wood spice to our sauvignon blanc wines And this is very different to say how Um other famous producers of sovereign Blanc will typically uh do it like in New Zealand or in in Chile so it adds a Kind of its own unique spin to this Grape variety Um as I said these will be in found in Places like uh Russian River Valley and The Sonoma Coast in in Sonoma County That's not all I wanted to mention on The North Coast as I say it's a very Important area for great production so Further north than on Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley we get Anderson Valley in Mendocino County And this is a wonderful Center for Sparkling wine production we get a lot Of cooling influence coming in from the Coast and this means it's suitable for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and we do see

Producers make some non-sparkling Versions of these great varieties but These great varieties are Blended Together and created in the traditional Method to create some exceptional World-class sparkling wines as well and Some of my favorites barking wines come From here Another area I wanted to mention is Lodi This is a sub-region of the Central Valley Um but one of those areas that has a Reputation for producing uh premium Quality wines one of the great variety That is very famous in California we Haven't mentioned so far called Zinfandel Lodi gets the benefit of some cooling Influences coming off the Sacramento Delta Um that help preserve some of the Freshness of this grape variety Uh Zinfandel is a great variety that is Quite intensely fruity with lots of Black fruit flavors like Black Plum Black cherry it'll often be aged in Oak Barrels giving us a particular kind of Vanilla spicy almost coconutty kind of Characteristic There's a great variety that has Relatively high levels of acidity and Relatively high levels of tannin sitting Between kind of medium and high for for Both these

Um these kind of areas What we see which is quite um particular For Zinfandel in the state is it often Even as a young wine giving us kind of Raisin and dried fruit characteristics Um and especially in places like Lodi Where we see a lot of this great variety Being planted There is a particular reason why this Occurs so Zinfandel has a kind of Unusual Quirk when it ripens Um not all uh grapes on the bunch ripen At the same rate so we'll see some great Varieties that still almost remain kind Of green Um in in our bunches and we'll see other Grapes that have ripened very quickly And by the time we are ready to harvest These will have shriveled on the vine And turned in into raisins themselves So if we take all these Bunches of Grapes and we process these into wine we Will see both fresh fruit flavors Um and some kind of Raisin fruit flavors Resulting as well so it can lead to some Intensely Um complex and very very fruity wines in Particular And they are absolutely phenomenal I can Uh highly recommend uh to anyone who Wants to try them Okay so leaving California behind and Moving uh North now we see Um both the states of Washington and

Oregon Oregon is got uh not a huge Amount of plantings just about one Percent of All American wines come out Of Oregon but it is getting uh remarked For some very high quality Expressions Indeed Um it gets just uh enough cooling Influence from the ocean and being Further to the north it's going to be Typically cooler than California this Makes it Um superb for the production of Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir accounts for about 80 of all production coming out of Oregon Um and it's noted to have really high Levels of acidity here and some in very Intense red fruit flavors and it will Typically have those oak barrel flavors As well Our second most planted grape Variety in Oregon is Pinot Gris Um and this is a white grape variety Um and it produces a big range of styles And it produces a big range of styles in Oregon as well Um it can be both dry in expression and Off dry but generally getting really Ripe flavors of citrus fruits uh apple And pear and some stone fruit Characteristics The majority of these wines will be Medium in acidity levels with some Producers aiming to get a much fresher

Higher acid kind of expression as well And it can be much riper in expression Than a Pinot Grigio that you might find In Northern Italy Um so if you're looking for something That has recognizable flavors but a Little bit more intensity than Um Oregon could be a good place to go Going back to our map uh going further North Washington is our second most Planted state in America with over five Percent uh of all of America's plantings Um and we can see we're much further in Land and we're to the east of the Cascade Mountains which block Really any of the cooling effects Um of the ocean from really getting to Uh our great growing areas we do have Some areas that are cooled by slightly Higher altitude But generally because of this kind of Um exclusion from these cooling effects We have really intensely worn Summers Um but being further to the north Um even though we have really warm Daytime temperatures we actually see Quite cool nights and this is really Suitable for great growing because it's Able to give us really intensely fruity Wines but still maintaining freshness And acidity in our grape varieties We see Um lots of different grape varieties Cabernet and Merlot are our most planted

In the states giving us Um really fantastic high quality wines Here Um and for our white grape varieties Chardonnay and Riesling are often very Much planted uh reasoning favoring the Slightly more cooler areas and Chardonnay being planted widely across All areas in Washington Yukima Valley is a sub-region in Columbia Valley that is noted for Particularly high quality wines from all Of these great varieties And then our last area that I want to Talk about Um is jumping now over to the north east Of the country and New York State and The majority of our plantings in this State are going to be close to the Canadian border Um in an area known as Finger Lakes and You can see these Um these kind of long narrow lakes That are given the region its name These really help viticulture in New York Um as they really help Um kind of moderate the temperature These even though these are very narrow Lakes they're incredibly deep with some Of the Lakes reaching 200 meters in Depth and this acts like giant radiators They heat up over the course of the Summer and then help radiate that heat

Out into the Autumn helping to Um extend the growing season Um in an area which would otherwise be Too cold for producing quality wines These Lakes really also help us in the Winter uh in uh warming up the local Temperature otherwise the vines May uh Freeze over the winter months as it gets Very cold in this part of the world Because it's much cooler than we'll see In Washington at similar latitudes we're Going to see a different range of great Varieties being planted that really Thrive in these cool temperatures and in Particular we have Riesling in this State doing particularly well for Quality wines We'll see a huge range of styles being Made they'll be noted for having very High levels of acidity but incredibly Ripe and intense uh fruity notes such as Lime Peach maybe even some pineapple Aromas producers in this state will Produce wines of a range of sweetness Levels from dry to very sweet similar to The Great rieslings of of Northern Europe And yeah absolutely fantastic quality Can be found if you're a big fan of Riesling Um Washington State and New York state Is the place to go So uh that's uh all from me Um so I'll quickly look at our questions

If there's any that you'd like to post In the chats thank you so much for Paying attention Um would first question uh would in General Californian Pinot Noir be aged Mostly in American Oak barrels where Oregon would be in French Oak Um so this is a really good question Because it's Um something we cover in our courses There is a difference between the American species of Oak and uh European Oak which uh European Oak generally Gives more subtle Aromas than American Which can give us some really bold and Intense flavors now due to Pinot Noir Being a little bit more delicate than Things like Cabernet sauvignon's Infandal we generally find that Producers in both California and Oregon Will tend to use European sourced like French or or Etc Whereas on more bold grape varieties we Will see some producers using European And some producers using American Depending on their own particular style Foreign ERS asked if Primitivo also Ripens in the uneven way that Zinfandel Does yes indeed it does so primitiva and Zinfandel are actually the same grape Variety uh Primitivo in the south of Italy Um is is what it's referred to and Zinfandel is the name that it's referred

To in California and so they both have This genetic Quirk that um means that we Get this uneven uh ripening and Primitivos from Julio in in Italy are um Often have this characteristic as well With this slightly raised and dried Fruit characteristic Uh almost every state in the U.S has Vineyards of some type is there a newer Region to keep an eye on perhaps due to Climate change Um that's that's a very good question I Would see maybe actually Um Oregon even though it's a quite a Well-known region Um it's it has quite a small amount of Planting and has only really been in the Last few decades that this has come to The attention so I think this is an area That might be able to expand into new Parts of that state Um but there's a lot of wine being grown In places like Pennsylvania Ohio Um Pretty much every state has something Else as you correctly identified so some Potentially more suitable from others We're just going to see uh what the Future holds uh which really nicely goes To Sarah's question climate change is Going to be Affecting viticulture across the world As it's going to be affecting most Industries in in the next few decades so

It's it's a lot of Um uh attention is being drawn to this And I'm hoping to be able to like like Israel says open up new regions and Explore new Styles and maybe new great Varieties in our more classic Um regions Milos asks Um Very Oaky chardonnay from the US do you See a change over time to more modern Style uh or do you think boldness is is Still going to be held on as a potential Marketing opportunity and the producers Are going to be able to produce both Styles I think is going to be the Correct answer a more fresher more Lighter style of Chardonnay we will see But there is still a huge support for Rich and intense Oaky style of Chardonnays Um Uh so I I think there are room for both To exist together Um and I think that's a fantastic thing Um so uh even though we might see people Confess that they prefer lighter styles Of Chardonnay I have managed to pay my Mortgage for many months by selling Incredibly Rich very Oaky chardonnays From Napa so I think it will long uh We'll continue Um Finger Lakes region is there any Mystery unable to produce botrytus wines

Uh yes there are and we're seeing Producers experiment with Um producing wines uh which have the Impact of botrytus yes so um keep an eye Out there more and more that I am Finding uh and they are fantastic Um And Do you wanna know of any American Wineries that slowly use Oak barrels Um I'm not entirely sure I know Ridge which Is a very famous producer Um in Sonoma County uh have a tendency To use very high proportions of American Oak barrels so Um Uh that would be where I would uh Potentially go Um and that nicely leads on to Emma's Question what's my favorite American Wine I absolutely love the wines of Ridge so Um like Geyserville Um in particular is a Zinfandel that I Show in in our wine school and I Absolutely smile every time we open it Because I think it's going to be Um absolutely uh fantastic Um Uh then our Verity asked if America was Called Finland because of the abundance Of wine grapes where then where are Native American oranges and making wines

From varieties was originally here um I Don't have a great answer to that Question but what I will say is Um the varietals are not the same Species as uh the great varieties that We use uh that we're responsible for are Um Our great varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Um they do produce some very unusual Aromas Um but some people do make wine from Them especially in kind of Um the northeast of the country where They receive a large proportion of these Ropes they are widely grown but they're Usually turned into jellies jams and Um uh or or for eating um and that's Where they're much more suitable so I'm Unsure about Um indigenous people making wine in the Past but I would love to find out more About that Um And with that Um I would like to say thank you I'll Just uh thank you all just uh to wrap up Um sorry if I didn't get to answer all Your questions thank you so much for Watching Um if you could please complete the Feedback poll uh that will pop up on Your screens Um the recording of course will be

Emailed to everyone as well as being Available to watch on the wst events Hub On our YouTube Uh where you can catch up on all Previous events as well Um and just a quick reminder if you want To sign up for any of our qualifications Then please do visit our website Um thank you so much happy Fourth of July and take care