Updated: Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013, 12:57 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013, 4:50 PM EST
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - It's time to offer a toast to several Indiana wineries. Members of the Indiana Uplands region earned federal recognition Tuesday. Their part of southern Indiana has been designated an AVA, an American Viticultural Area.
Jim Butler of Bloomington's Butler Winery said those three letters mean the area is "considered significant for grape growing." Butler Winery is one of nine to be included in the AVA.
Butler told a gathering at the Statehouse this is an economic development opportunity for the region that reaches from the Bloomington area south to the Ohio River.
The land is not "prime agricultural land," as he put it. But, southern Indiana limestone provides a "good bedrock for grape growing," Butler said, "because limestone has fractures and drains water through it. Grapes like two things. They like full sunshine and dry feet."
Butler also said the temperature in the Indiana Uplands wine area "is about the same as what you would find in Napa Valley and some areas south from there. The main difference is we get this heat in a shorter time period during the year. About a month shorter. So, we have to select grape varieties that adapt well to this area."
Gina Sheets, the head of Indiana's Department of Agriculture, told reporters Indiana now has at least 63 wineries, attracting over two million visitors.
"Agritourism is extremely important," she said, "because you are bringing guests and visitors in your community who spend their dollars and leave. So, the services that government provides are very minimal. But the impact and the residual of that dollar carries on into the community."
Customers will now see "estate bottled" on the labels. That's significant to vintners like Butler because -- with the AVA -- they'll be able to earn more from each bottle they sell. But, he also appreciates the bragging rights.
"We're proving ourselves. We're making quality wines. And, we're making them as good or better than anybody else anywhere."
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