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The United States is now the fourth-largest producer of wine worldwide, with an abundance of grapevines planted in many wine regions, though Californian accounts for almost 90% of the country's output. In the late 1800s, the root louse phylloxera decimated many of the vineyards in Europe. It originated in the soils of North America where the vines are naturally resistant and was transferred to Europe on vine cuttings. In this case, North America was both the cause of the problem, and the solution, in the form of resistant rootstock for grafting.
It wasn’t until 1973 when Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay from Château Montelana were judged to be the best in the world at the famous Paris Wine Show that the quality of the Californian wine industry was truly confirmed in the eyes of Europe.
Most all varieties are planted these days in the United States, from Syrah to Tempranillo, Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Viognier and every blend in between. Key varieties are Californian Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Chardonnay. Cooler climates such as Oregon and Washington produce brilliant Pinot Noir. Even states previously considered too hot and arid for wine, like Arizona are being planted, with great results.
Oregon, just north of California in the US Pacific Northwest, enjoys a moderate maritime climate, with the Pacific Ocean providing a cooling influence. The region specialises in cool-climate wine varieties, including Pinot Noir (the most planted grape), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Oregon Pinot Noir – which has garnered much acclaim – tends to be high in acidity and typically features ripe red fruit and cinnamon flavours. Local Pinot Gris wines are generally fruity and dry. Oregon has a number of American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), including Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, and Applegate. Willamette Valley sits to the west of the Cascade Mountains and boasts the state’s largest concentration of vineyards and wineries. An environmentally conscious area, many vineyards here are organic and biodynamic.
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