A decade ago, grape-growing and wine in Texas was an afterthought. While being the second largest and most populous state in the United States, and with more farms than any other state in the Union, Texas supplies more than their fair share of crops including cotton, grain, hay, nursery (flowers, trees, etc), fruits, nuts and many other foodstuffs. Vine grapes have never been high on that list … but they are now.
In 2012, Texas barely made the Top 10 wine producing states in the U.S., yet now, Texas has moved into fifth nationally, along the way passing old wine stalwarts like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Indeed, wine is booming in Texas.
Overall, the Lone Star state is nowhere near the size of the California grape behemoth as a wine producer, considering they only have a tenth of the acreage planted that we here in Paso Robles have. However, they’re on a steady upward growth with plenty of land and it should be noted Texas predates the Golden state in producing wine. Going back almost four centuries, the Spanish missionaries established vineyards to make sacramental wine – primarily in West Texas.
Cotton is king, but …
Texas has a huge amount of natural resources and certainly doesn’t need to add wine to their production resume. Yet, where cotton is king, that’s exactly what’s happening, with a steady upward growth what with have plenty of land and a strong economy.
Texas is generally a dry climate but due to the fact they sit at the backside of the Rockies, on the Gulf Coast and susceptible to weather from the Great Plains, there isn’t an ideal environment for making multiple types of wines. However, each region has their own climate that can grow certain varietals and folks in Texas are learning how to cope with the sometimes violent changes in weather to produce excellent vino.
One of the many reason for the growth is the fact cotton prices have dropped and forced farmers to look elsewhere for revenue. Add in lack of rain – yes, Texas has a bit of their own drought issues – and vineyards are beginning to pop up in places like South Central Texas (just north and west of San Antonio) in what is called Hill Country.
Not unlike other wine regions, at the very southern end of the Great Plains, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the widely planted varietals in Texas. As far as Hill Country, the biggest gains recently are Rhone Valley style wines such as Syrah. Also, north of this region in the high plains of West Texas, where oil and cotton are giants, production of wine is prevalent as well – even if frost is always a problem.
Popular travel destination
Though hard to believe or envision the wine industry growing in the land of cowboy hats and pickup trucks, surrounded by vast cotton fields, but that is exactly what is happening. And to add to the growth, stories such as Wine Enthusiast Magazine listing the area as one of the Top 10 travel destinations, the continuing development and expansion of vineyards will only grow.
Everything in Texas is big and certainly the big growth of their booming wine industry is making everyone take a hard look at the Lone Star state as a real player in the vino business. Weather – including drought and frost – may hinder Texas from ever moving any higher up than fifth on U.S. wine producing state list, but without doubt, wine grapes are making an indefinite appearance in the Southern Plains. Texas may still be the land of cotton, however there truly is a wine boom going on.
Additional sources: Llano Estacado, Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association
Daryle W. Hier