Leanne Holley, Editor, Texas Wine and Trail
Texas Wine and Trail Magazine online is a consumer publication which is why we have openly supported public awareness on the ‘GO TEXAN’ mark debate, even though it is a highly sensitive issue within the Texas wine industry. To sum it up, current rules do not require any (o%) Texas grown grapes to be used in the making of wine, in order for Texas producers to use the ‘GO TEXAN’ mark on their bottles. Senior Writer Andrew Chalk has personally proposed a rule change to the Texas Department of Agriculture which sponsors the ‘GO TEXAN’ program. Chalk has petitioned that the rule for using the ‘GO TEXAN’ mark on wine bottles, change to only wines made with 100% Texas grown grapes.
The 1st round of comments were made public (see below), and it was determined that Texas wine consumers were definitely in favor of the change. Judging from many of the consumer comments, the change from a 0% Texas grape requirement to 100% Texas grape requirement is common sense. However, inside the industry the rule change has been met with mixed opinion, and not without reason. The rule change would affect a large number of Texas wineries currently using the ‘GO TEXAN’ mark on their wine bottles – like, a lot. It would also present a number of hurdles for the Department of Agriculture in order to implement the rule change.
It must be noted, that currently there is no agreed upon mark or logo used in Texas to distinguish wines made with 100% Texas fruit. Many wineries using 100% Texas grown grapes for their wines choose not to use the ‘GO TEXAN’ mark on their bottles, even though they are ‘GO TEXAN’ members.
As the second public comment period ends, Chalk wanted to make sure the TDA had the key points succinctly in front of them, so he sent the “closing comment” below:
As the petitioner on this rule change I have already made a submission and written a lot in public forums on its merits. With the second public comment period coming to an end I thought it would be useful to condense what I consider to be the key issues into a short document that should be in front of the TDA’s eyes when they deliberate this issue. I have set these out below, omitting a lot of supporting arguments that are covered in my numerous public postings (all of which may be found by searching the Internet).
1. Consumers think that Go Texan wines are made of Texas grapes in Texas. In fact, under current rules, the grapes can come 0% from Texas and the wine be made entirely in California (or elsewhere). Only a simple mixing of finished jug wines is necessary to comply with the rule’s minimal “processed in Texas” requirement.
This giant affront to consumers’ expectations is facilitated by Go Texan. It alone is sufficient to show that the 0% rule is indefensible.
2. With other ingredients, location of the source material does not matter insofar as the Go Texan program is concerned. For example, Coffee is not grown in Texas, so there is no consumer confusion. Beer is the work of the brewmaster, so the origin of the corn or barley does not matter (that is why traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange risk millions trading by grade of product, not the product’s origin).
Wine is different. Wine is largely and inextricably defined by the origin of its grapes. ‘Go Texan’ can only be applied to wine by reference to the origin of the grapes.
3. I have proposed that 100% of the grapes in a Texas wine come from Texas fruit. Thoughtful people have argued that they would prefer a 75% rule. Let me spell out my opinion of this proposal.
Pro: The 75% rule would eliminate the ‘juice mixers’ who discredit the Go Texan logo. If a 75% rule were applied the Go Texan mark would be credible again and the rule consistent with Federal labeling standards. In this respect, a 75% rule would be a major improvement on the 0% rule.
Con: The 100% rule creates, at a stroke, a uniform method of labeling that a wine is 100% Texas grapes. This would be a tremendous advantage to consumers and Texas producers. The 75% rule does not give us this.
4. The 100% rule can be phased in. I have no objections to this as I have no intention of applying the rule in advance of business practices being changed to align with it. For example, wines placed into commerce after January 1st, 2016 could be a minimum 75% Texas grapes and wines placed into commerce after January 1st, 2018 could be a minimum 100% Texas grapes (I am flexible on actual dates). The planting and the crop decisions would start now.
5. “There aren’t enough Texas grapes”. If you hear this, run a mile. Usually it comes from winemakers who have been in business long enough to supply all their grape needs but have chosen instead to create a business model that relies on the ability to import finished California jug wine and pass it off as Texas wine. Take away their “California crutch” and Texas grape growing will take off at a rate the like of which we have not seen before. The Go Texan 0% rule actually retards planting and is bad for the Texas grape industry.
6. By supporting this rule change the TDA can signal that it is throwing its weight and its policies behind those who grow grapes and make wine in Texas and simultaneously show its back to those who just want to mix out-of-state fruit.
Many thanks for your time and attention on this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything else you require.