Words Amber Elias
The crop is planted, grapes grown and harvested, and now comes the art. Oenology has been explored for centuries in America, but until recently, was mostly confined to California. Now, the southeastern state of Georgia is gaining recognition as the newest wine region in the US, through the many wineries and vineyards located on the Dahlonega Plateau.
The Dahlonega Plateau is a long, narrow plateau located in the northern foothills of the Georgia Piedmont. The northeastern section of the plateau has recently been named an American Viticultural Area (AVA), meaning the area and its grapes have distinguishing features and the certification helps assure consumers of certain characteristics and a level of quality. Wines labelled AVA must contain at least 85 per cent of grapes grown in that area. The AVA listed area is about 133 square miles in size, and includes seven wineries and eight commercial vineyards, totalling just over 110 acres of planted vines.
‘[This accreditation] establishes the credibility of our wine-growing area and helps dispel the past images of Georgia producing only sweet and muscadine wines,’ said Karl Boegner, proprietor and winemaker of Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery, one of the wineries in the Dahlonega Plateau.
The Dahlonega Plateau is stunning, filled with gently rolling hills that are separated by wide valleys. The sun-drenched earth is warm, perfectly suited to viniculture and quite different from the shaded woodland surrounding it. The wine produced is of the highest standard and due to the elevated abundance of sunshine, vineyards in this AVA can produce a variety of hybrid grapes from all over the world.
It’s these unique growing conditions that have curated these exceptional wines and allowed for an even longer growing time than in California. ‘[This] particular geographic region has a special growing condition,’ said Stephen Smith, manager of the tasting room at Wolf Mountain Vineyards and Winery, ‘there’s a particular soil profile. Everything that goes into growing grapes makes this area unique.’
Experts say the future of viniculture in Georgia will only grow, with increased awareness and investment into the region. ‘The designation of the Dahlonega Plateau holds great promise for wine grape production and agritourism,’ says Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black. ‘This will no doubt be another successful illustration of our continued focus on rural development and could result in a substantial influx of visitors making their way to our state.’
The Dahlonega Plateau has the highest concentration of wine producers in the state – fifteen growers in total which cover the areas of Lumpkin and White counties. Everything, from the soil to the terrain makes growing wine in Georgia, USA unique. Now, recognised nationwide through the AVA as a certified wine region of the United States, wine tourism in Georgia is set to reach new heights.