American Wine Production: A Brief History

For more than 300 years, Americans vineyards have been producing wine.  Currently, all fifty states in the Union produce wine, but it is California that produces the most, with 89 percent of all US wine coming from California vineyards.

How the United States stacks up to the rest of the world

The United States is currently the fourth biggest wine producer worldwide. France, Italy, and Spain are the top producers overall.

The US is capable of competing internationally in wine production due to the fact that there are a number of different grape species that are native to the North American continent.

The beginning of wine in North America

When the Vikings first came to North America, they referred to it as Vinland because of the fact that there were so many different types of grapes.  Sometime between 1562 and 1564, the very first wine was produced in what is today known as the United States.

This early wine was produced by French settlers using Scuppernong grapes, and this wine was produced somewhere near what is today Jacksonville, Florida.

The Carolinas and Virginia were the first American colonies to start producing wine.  Wine production was actually a goal in the colonies’ founding charters.


Appellation is a legal indication of where certain grapes are grown for wine.  This is the regulation that the United States government uses to determine which grapes can be grown where, as well as how much of a yield can be produced.

Appellation existed long before the American colonies were founded by Europeans.  In fact, the first mention of appellation historically is in the Bible.

Labeling laws

The United States has laws that regulate the labeling of wines.  If at least 85% of the grapes used to produce the wine were grown in American Viticultural Areas, an AVA label will be placed on the wine.

The label of “semi-generic” is also used for certain wines.  These labels include, but are not limited to, California champagne, American burgundy, Chablis, Claret, and Chianti.


After the end of prohibition in the United States, the government permitted every state to regulate its sale and production of alcohol products.  Due to this, many states created a system of three-tier distribution, which includes the producer, the wholesaler, and the consumer.

However, not all states use this system of distribution.  There are certain wineries which are permitted to sell directly to their customers at their winery and ship wines from state to state. The laws that previously banned interstate sales of wine was struck down back in 2005.

How much wine is produced?

In 2016, there was a sum total of 806,447,891 gallons of wine produced in the United States, and over 680 million of those gallons were produced in California alone.

Due to the California climate, it is likely that it will continue to be the leading producer of wine in the United States for the foreseeable future.  Wine-lovers know that California is the best destination for wine.