By Jeff Siegel, Wine Curmudgeon for Texas Wine and Trail Magazine
The question caught me off-guard: “How can we tell, when we’re buying Texas wine, where it’s from in the state?” In the 20-some years I’ve been talking to people about Texas wine, the issue was never about appellation or terroir. It was about whether Texas wine actually existed. Or, as a judge once famously told me when I asked to be excused from jury duty because I was taking a Texas wine trip, “What do you mean, Texas wine? There’s no such thing as Texas wine.”
Much has changed about Texas wine over those two decades – better quality, more skilled producers, improved distribution, increased understanding of Texas’ terroir and which grapes to grow to take advantage of it – and all of these been for the good. As Tom Fikes of Duchman Family Winery noted more than once at the Kerrville wine and music festival over Labor Day weekend, the wines being made today come from the next generation of Texas winemakers, younger and better educated and with a different perspective.
But perhaps the most intriguing change has been among consumers. Texas wine is more than novelty these days, something to elicit giggles or wonderment. It’s on grocery store shelves and at wine shops large and small, and it’s there because wine drinkers buy it. When Total Wine, the liquor retailer that aspires to be a national chain, moved into the state last year, it stocked a full Texas section – something that would have been unheard of just a couple of years ago.
That particular change was most evident during my Texas wine mini-tour this fall, when I was part of the Texas wine panel at the annual Kerrville event and when I spoke at Grapefest, where the Texas question caught me unawares. At both places, smart, knowledgeable audiences asked smart, knowledgeable questions, and they wanted to learn more about what was going on in Texas. The Grapefest question showed better understanding of how wine works, and that there is more to what goes in the bottle than just a bunch of grapes. The answer? Most Texas grapes are grown in west Texas, in and around Lubbock, and then shipped to one of the 300 wineries throughout the state (only a handful of which are in west Texas). In this, Texas is unique among the country’s leading producing states.
In addition, these were not the usual Baby Boomer audiences, the older Anglos who have powered the local wine movement in the state since the 1990s, and doing yeoman work in the process. Rather, they were younger and, at Grapefest and especially at its People’s Choice wine tasting and competition, less white. I talked to a Chinese husband and wife who asked such detailed questions about what was going on and which wineries to visit that I couldn’t answer all of them.
These younger consumers, like the younger generation of winemakers, hold the future of Texas wine in their hands. Will the industry continue to improve quality and focus on making Texas wine with Texas grapes, which it seems is what the new Texas wine drinkers want? If so, then we’ll finally be rid of the Boomers’ quest to turn Texas into the next Napa Valley, a goal that was as short-sighted as it was impractical. There is already one Napa; why do we need another? Instead, we’ll have the best Texas wine that the state can produce, a goal that is well worth realizing.
Writer Jeff Siegel recently published The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine which rose to No. 12 in its first week on Amazon in the Kindle version. Guide to Cheap Wine is also available at Barnes and Nobles, and will be on iTunes within days.
1st photo credit http://paulgerald.com/category/paul-gerald-writings/
2nd photo credit http://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/3201924-wines-of-texas
Grapefest photos credit dallasnews.com