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What Kind of Wine is Grown in Georgia?

Apr 29th, 2024

Georgia’s first wholly-in-state American Viticultural Area (AVA) is the Dahlonega Plateau AVA, a region that spans most of Lumpkin County and portions of White County. And though it was only made official in 2018 — relatively recent compared to other AVAs — the region has been making wine for years!

Here’s all you need to know about this special region and what makes it so good for growing wine!

All you need to know about the Dahlonega AVA

Where is the Dahlonega Plateau AVA?

As the name suggests, the Dahlonega Plateau AVA is centered in northern Lumpkin County in Northeastern Georgia, with a portion of the region spilling over into White County to the east. There are around 110 planted acres of vineyards within the 133-square-mile region, spread among 8 major vineyards where visitors can tour and taste to their heart’s content. 

Why north Georgia is a good wine-growing region

To be considered an AVA, a wine growing region must meet a few criteria. 

First, the name of the AVA should be distinctive and descriptive enough that people will have a good idea of where its location is — the Columbia River Valley, Sierra Foothills, Paso Robles and Indiana Uplands AVAs are good examples of geographically-descriptive names. It should also be an already-established wine growing region, and although Prohibition decimated the winemaking industry in the 1920s and 30s, Georgia winemakers have been hard at work building it back since the 1980s! 

Next, the AVA’s boundaries have to be defined. This involves submitting maps, surveys and explanations of why the boundaries are marked as such. Up in the Dahlonega AVA, the upper boundary runs along portions of the Chattahoochee National Forest and the lower boundary runs just under Dahlonega itself, creating a northeast-to-southwest angled region tucked in the foothills of the Appalachians.

Speaking of the Appalachians, that’s where the third criterion comes in, since an AVA must have distinctive geographic features that affect the viticulture of the region. The Dahlonega Plateau is actually part of a much larger plateau called the Piedmont, which runs between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Atlantic Plain from New York to central Alabama. It’s a huge region that’s characterized by moderately higher elevations, cooler temperatures, foothills and higher precipitation levels, all of which is great for growing wine. The Dahlonega Plateau portion of the Piedmont, specifically, has a perfect balance of temperature, elevation, length of growing season and precipitation compared to surrounding regions; plus, the soils are part of the famous Dahlonega Gold Belt that drew gold diggers here by the droves in the early 1800s, adding to the historical significance of the region! All these features are enough to make the Dahlonega Plateau agriculturally distinctive enough from other wine-growing regions, thus making it unique enough to be an official AVA.

Becoming an established AVA is a big deal, and it’s a high standard for wineries and vineyards to uphold. In order to list a wine as part of the AVA, at least 85% of the grapes in the wine have to have come from vineyards within the AVA. And, since the Dahlonega Plateau AVA is fairly isolated from other AVAs, the wine you’re getting from there is sure to be as unique as they come!

Let’s dive into the types of wine grown in this special AVA and in appellations across the state!

What type of wine is grown in Georgia State?

There’s a myth that the only kind of wine grapes effectively grown here on the East Coast are of the muscadine variety: sweet, very fruity and with thick, bitter skins and full of seeds.

You know the kind. 

The muscadine industry here in Georgia is the largest in the world; and while it is indeed true that those grapes are more well suited to the humidity, high temperatures and rainy weather than most grapes are, Georgia’s winemakers and viticulturalists are super skilled at growing a wide variety of wine grapes, including the classic vitis vinifera that makes up most varieties of wine on shelves today. 

There are 34 varieties of wine grapes grown in the state, and you can find many of them grown or sold in the Dahlonega Plateau AVA. Among them are well known varieties: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, just to name a few. You can also find lesser-known Viognier, Petit Manseng, Mourvedre, Chardonel and Sangiovese. 

The best varieties to try though, in our opinion, are the ones that really are unique to Georgia and our little slice of heaven. Wines made from Scuppernong, Muscadine, Catawba and Cayuga grapes represent old winemaking practices using native grapes and grapes bred specifically for East Coast climates, and Norton grapes are some of the oldest wine grapes native to North America!

We can’t compete with California’s vineyards when it comes to sheer quantity, but we sure can beat them when it comes to these unique grapes and stunning regional wines. 

If you’re interested in looking into the wines and varietals a little more, then check out this comprehensive list of Georgia wines, wineries and varieties listed by Appellation America

If you live in or near our luxury Atlanta apartments and want to experience the best of Georgia’s wineries, then the Dahlonega Plateau AVA is a must-visit region that’ll have you going back again and again.


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Featured photo by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives on Oahu in Hawai'i. She loves to travel, camp, spearfish and hike. She's also part of a super cool canoe club and is pretty decent at it. Colleen enjoys Star Wars and also not being cold ever.

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