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USA

Winemaking in America was established by early European colonists. It was greatly shaken by Prohibition in the 1930s, which saw the ripping up of many prized vineyards and it was not until the 1960s that a number of pioneering winemakers began to show the world what America could do.

California

California is by far the biggest producer of wine in the States producing around 90% of the country's total output. Vitis vinifera vines (those suitable for making wine) were brought here in the 1700s by Franciscan missionaries. The gold rush of the following century helped fuel demand for wine and was actively encouraged by the state. Even as early as the 1880s research was being carried out to establish the best regions for growing grapes with a special faculty set up at the University of California (now the world-famous Davis campus).

In more recent times, the late Robert Mondavi is credited with educating Americans on the benefits of good wine and good food, and the pristine, visitor-friendly wineries in California, particularly in Napa, are now the model for wine tourism across the world.

California has been stereotyped as a producer of big, blockbuster-style reds and ripe, oaky whites, and while these wines do exist, elegance and subtlety also play their part, helped by the cool Pacific winds and fog that blow in from the west, with a cooling effect on vineyards as far as 50 miles inland. The most appetising styles come from these cooler regions.

Napa and Sonoma are two regions that dominate Californian wine, but other regions are gaining in reputation, particularly those south of San Francisco, such as Paso Robles, Monterey, Santa Cruz Mountains and Santa Maria Valley.