When you think about wine you probably don’t think about Texas grapes. Out of the US wine producers, states like California, Oregon or Washington are going to pop into your head, with good reason. And while those states have amazing wine, I want to talk about Texas wines today to discover the history behind wine growing in this southern state. What wines is Texas producing? And why is it that it is the 4th largest producer in the US yet most people couldn’t even name a Texas label? Let’s explore.
First, let’s talk about the history of wine in Texas. Interestingly enough, but not surprisingly, Texas was the first state to open a vineyard in North America in 1662. It was first created by Franciscan missionaries who needed wine for the Eucharist and so they brought grapes to present day border of Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico.
Of course, the wine industry didn’t immediately boom due to prohibition, laws, and much trial and error. But today, according to WineAmerica.org, Texas is home to 394 wineries contributing to bringing in $13.1B in economic value to the state. (As of 2017). Your eyes don’t deceive you, I was just as surprised.
So what kind of wines are we talking about here? Well, let’s look at the climate. Texas is a big state so we have many climates, but often there is a comparison between some of Texas’ regions with Spain, Italy, and the Rhone Valley. Hot, dry, etc.
Now, Texas has 8 AVA (American Viticulture Area) regions, so these will differ again. For example, you have the Texas high plains in the North, Texas Hill Country in central Texas, and Mesilla Valley in the south. All of them will differ climate wise which means each will have their own challenges and strengths with certain wines.
So, again, what is grown here? Texas wineries are still figuring that out. There’s still a lot of trial and error, there’s a lot of experimentation, and the climate changing isn’t helping. But that makes the wine here interesting. Some wineries, such as Duchman Family Winery, do an amazing job focusing on Italian styles such as Trebbiano, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, etc. While Becker Vineyards creates wonderful French wines.
To me, this is very exciting for the future of Texas winemakers because it leaves a little bit more room for experimentation. There is room to make Texas wine truly unique instead of just copying methods. (Though who could blame anyone, I mean, the French and Italians know their wine!)
So why is Texas so underrated? Conde Nast Traveler wrote a very interesting article on this very topic which I highly recommend you check out. They explain the awful first taste’s of Texas wine early on led, which can lead to a very long impression. But also how, again, wineries are still figuring out what works best in this area.
Have you tried any Texas wines? If so, what did you think? Which ones? Leave a comment below!