March 2009

Got Appellation?

by Stuart Harrison on March 15, 2009


Got Appellation? It’s a question demanded by more and more consumers of California wine. Despite the fact that we’ve come a long way in the last 30 years, we still have a long way to go.

An appellation is like a set of directions. The more specific, the more likely you are going to end up in the right place. The fact is, the United States, still in ‘appellation infancy’, has only 192 wine appellations. The tiny region of Burgundy has 677. These include regional designations, entire communes and individual vineyards. Equally important, each legally recognized growing area in Burgundy carries a set of regulations whose major purpose is to set standards for quality.

Our Trivium label carries a St. Helena appellation. This designation certainly helps to give consumers an idea of what to expect. But we need to go further. Trivium (along with a number of other labels) is grown exclusively on a very specific ‘bench’ in the southwest corner of the St. Helena appellation. It would be helpful to have a legally defined place name for grapes grown in that local. With increasing prices, consumers have a right to increasingly precise (and reliable) information on ‘place’. We’re definitely headed in that direction. We need to pick up the pace, however, if we want to win over today’s increasingly sophisticated consumer.