Two million acres of Southern Indiana has been designated by the Federal Government as a viticultural area. This federal designation highlights this part of Indiana as a great place to grow grapes and produce wine. Jim Butler, with Butler Winery, says Southern Indiana has the soil, the typography, and the climate that is perfectly suited to producing wine grapes. Nicolas Doty, with French Lick Winery, says this designation will result in the expansion of the wine industry in this part of the state, “This designation will mean a lot to our expansion plans.” He said wine grapes are a great crop for farmers with limited resources and smaller acreage, “Wine grapes are a great thing to grow; it is labor intensive but not equipment intensive.” He said, as wineries expand in Southern Indiana, there will an increasing demand for wine grapes.
ISDA Director Gina Sheets says wineries are a great economic resource for rural communities, “It is estimated that, for every dollar spent at a winery, $4 are spent in that community; so that represents millions of dollars spent in rural communities.” Currently there are 63 wineries in the state that are visited by about 2 million people annually. She told HAT this kind of regional designation is being used more and more by rural areas to encourage the development of certain types of agriculture and agritourism opportunities, “Communities are discovering that these kinds of designations can bring millions of people looking for a weekend activity to their area.”
The Indiana Uplands AVA runs in a swath from the Morgan-Monroe County line near Bloomington south to the Ohio River, a distance of just over 100 miles. Its greatest east/west distance is approximately 65 miles, from near Jasper in Dubois County to Knobstone Ridge near Starlight. “Having an American Viticultural Area declared for the Indiana Uplands truly shows just how important our vineyards are to our agriculture industry in Indiana,” said Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, who also serves as Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture. In a statement released on Tuesday, she said “With over 600 acres of grapes planted in the state, and a significant portion of those planted in the Indiana Uplands AVA, I’m encouraged we will see even more vineyards and wineries take root in the future.”
“Our locally produced wines are outstanding,” said Jeanette Merritt, Marketing Director of the Indiana Wine Grape Council. “Attaining an AVA designation is another indicator of the wine industry’s importance to Indiana, and how the industry is regarded outside our state in terms of product quality, economic development and agri-tourism.”
Approximately 200 AVAs exist in the US, including an Ohio AVA that takes in a small portion of southeast Indiana. Implemented in 1978, the AVA system identifies the origin of American wines in a manner similar to a system used by France. A wine with an AVA designation on its label must have 85 percent of its grapes grown in that viticultural area. Designation is based on multiple characteristics of the region including topography, soil type, climate, elevation, and, in some instances, historical precedent. AVAs range in size from several hundred to several million acres. The designation is granted by the US Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.