South Central Indiana has been dubbed an American Viticulture Area, or AVA, which Indiana wine makers say is a prestigious designation by the federal government.
That 4,800-square-mile designation runs from the Morgan-Monroe County line near Bloomington south to the Ohio River and includes nine wineries.
Oliver Winery President Bill Oliver says it has been ten years in the making.
“We’ve got this unique tongue of non-glaciated terrain which extends from the Ohio river to northern Monroe County,” Oliver says. “That gives us hills and it makes a lot of difference in grape growing. We really like hills, the soils better drained, the climates different, precipitation patters are different and it results in unique and better wines.”
Jim Butler of Butler Winery says it is a first for Indiana and puts the state on the map as a wine making designation along with Napa Valley, California and the Finger Lakes region of New York.
“I think it’s going to bring a lot of focus to this industry,” he says. “I think it‘s going to being focus by the wineries about what we want to do. The Indiana industry is new and this is going to help find those great varieties that are going to do great in this area.”
Indiana Department of Agriculture Director Gina Sheets says the real marketing must now begin to link the designation to tourism.
“There are about two million visitors who they count and who they say come to the state of Indiana specifically for the wine industry and the National Grape Council will tell you that for every dollar spent at the gate of winery, $4 is actually spent back into the local community,” she says.
Sheets says Indiana currently has 70 wineries that help generate at least $80 million in yearly economic impact.
There are 200 AVA’s in the U.S. The AVA system began in 1978 and identifies the origin of American wines similar to the system used in France.
Network Indiana contributed to this report.