Texas wine is not very well known outside of the Lone Star State and there is precious little awareness of it outside of the US. This may be about to change as increased investment, the entry of new entrepreneurs and more suitable cultivars are moving the industry forward. So with exciting times ahead, here are five things worth knowing now about the Texas Wine Industry.
1. The Number of Texas Wineries is Increasing Rapidly
According to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, in January 2013 there were 273 registered wineries in Texas. Ten years previously there were only 54. Expansion of the number of Texas wineries has really taken off since the beginning of the 21st century.
2. Texas Grape Production Has Not Increased This Century
Limited vineyard planting (see below), Pierce’s Disease and unfavourable climatic conditions (2011 drought; 2012 Spring freeze) have together created a situation in which Texas grape production has been not expanded in line with demand. For some years now there has been a shortage of Texas grapes.
3. More Texas Vineyard is About to Come Into Production
The recently released 2012 USDA Agricultural Census of Texas has shown a large increase in the amount non-bearing vineyard, reflecting a significant amount of new vineyard planting since 2010. These non-bearing vineyards should be bearing in 2014 or 2015, which will roughly double the amount of bearing vineyard and hence grape production capacity. With additional vineyards still being planted, it shouldn’t be too long before the Texas vineyard exceeds 10,000 acres.
4. With Limited Texan Grapes, Winemakers Are Using Californian Grapes
While some Texan wineries are able to source sufficient Texan grapes for their needs, most cannot. Aided by a laissez-faire attitude towards labelling, winemakers are currently able to describe their product as “Texan wine” providing a minimum of 25% of the juice is from Texan grapes (Mariani, 2013). That leaves an awful lot of leeway for using out of state grapes in Texas wine. If you want to be certain that the wine in your glass originated with largely Texan grapes, then stick to those from one of the eight designated AVA regions of Texas. A wine with an AVA designation guarantees that at least 85% of the wine’s grapes were grown within the AVA.
5. Texas is Still Discovering the Best Varietal Match to Terroir
The modern Texas wine industry is arguably less than 50 years old, which isn’t a lot of time to determine which type of grapes grow best in which area. The most recent USDA_NASS Texas Grape Survey showed that although Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay were the two most planted grape cultivars, neither occupied more than 20% of the bearing vineyard. A great variety of black and white cultivars are currently being grown, some in small amounts on experimental plots. It will take several years, or perhaps decades, before the most appropriate mix of cultivars for Texas’ different terroirs is adequately determined.
Thanks to Natalia Velikova of The Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute for advising on available data sources