This term was developed in 1983 by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to denote specific geographic areas which have been formally approved. The criteria used includes a recognition that the area is distinguished from surrounding areas by geographical and climatic features.
In order for a wine to be labeled with a viticultural area, it must contain no less than 85% grapes grown in that area.
In the United States, the first recognized American Viticultural Area was Augusta in Missouri (effective date June 20, 1980). The second was Napa Valley in California (effective date January 1, 1983).