By: Nan McCreary
It’s that time of year again: Texas Wine Month. This annual 31-day celebration, started by the Texas Department of Agriculture in 1999, gives Texas wine aficionados an opportunity to recognize the accomplishments started in the 1970s by of a small group of wine lovers with a pioneering spirit and a commitment to innovation and quality. Today, the Texas wine industry has moved way beyond its infancy and is taking its rightful place as one of the top wine regions in the U.S.
Consider these facts:
• There are more than 400 wineries in Texas, making it the fifth-largest wine producing state in the nation.
• The Texas Hill Country now ranks second in wine tourism after Napa.
• The Texas Hill Country was recently named the #3 Best Wine Region in USA TODAY’s 10 Best Readers' Choice Awards.
• Travel + Leisure included the Texas Hill Country in its “50 Best Places to Travel in 2021.”
• Texas Wines made a big impression at the prestigious 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Among more than 5,700 wines from 1,000-plus wineries (with the majority from California), 50 Texas wineries earned a total of 259 medals. Of those winners, 237 were wines made with grapes grown in Texas, including 57 that won gold medals – 14 four of them “Double Gold” (unanimously voted “gold” by their judges). Eleven gold medal wines were designated “Best of Class” in competitions between gold medal-winners from other flights of the same wine category.
• Texas wines also scored big in the 2021 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo ™ 2021 Rodeo Uncorked!® International Wine Competition. There were 346 Texas wines entered which resulted in 70 Texas Class Champions and 42 Reserve Texas Class Champions. The Top Texas Winery was Messina Hof Winery. The Top Texas Wine was awarded to the Ron Yates Tempranillo, Friesen Vineyards, Texas High Plains, 2017.
• With its wide variety of climates and soils, Texas has over 40 species of the Vitis Vinifera grape, the most common type of grapevines found in Spain, France and Italy and fine wine regions in the U.S. Fifteen of these are native to the state, more than any other region on earth.
• Texas winemakers now have years of experience in grape selection and production methods and have discovered the best wines for the region. Among white wines, look for Viognier, Trebbiano, Roussanne., Marsanne, Vermentino and Albariño and Picpoul Blanc. Popular red grapes include Tempranillo, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional, Tannat, Sangiovese and Aglianico.
• As Texas winemakers continue to experiment, look for more sparkling wines and Rosés and new varieties such as Carménère, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Teroldego, Sagrantino and Malbec.
Clearly, Texas winemakers are on a roll, producing quality wines, experimenting with diverse grape varieties and offering those of us living in the State more opportunities for enjoying fine wines. One of the best ways to celebrate wines from the Lone Star state is to purchase a Texas Wine Month Passport ticket (good from October 1 to October 31) for visits to over 45 participating wineries in the Texas Hill Country. The ticket includes a full complimentary tasting (as determined by the winery) with a limit of four wineries a day and a 15 percent discount on a three-bottle purchase at each winery. For more information on opportunities available during Texas Wine Month, visit texaswinetrail.com/texas-wine-month and join the Rodeo Uncorked! Facebook group.