Even to flamboyantly braggadocian Texans, ascendancy of the Texas wine industry is a surprise.
Texas wine production may never rival California, Washington, New York, and Oregon—those four states produce 96 percent of American wine—but Texas has a flourishing wine industry that ranks in the top 10 in production in the U.S., some claim fifth.
The Texas Hill Country American Viticultural Area (AVA), largest of Texas’s eight AVAs, is nation’s second-most visited AVA, behind Napa Valley.
Thank Hill Country beauty, Austin and San Antonio population centers, Texas pride from all over Texas, curiosity seekers from all over the world, and vastness of the AVA. Texas does things big. Napa Valley AVA is barely 225,000 acres. Texas Hill Country AVA is nine million acres.
While the Hill Country has go-to wineries, the Texas High Plains AVA—the state’s second biggest with eight million acres around Lubbock—is heart of Texas grape growing. Hot days, cool nights, dry climate, wine vines love it.
In the beginning, Texas grape growing focused on cab and merlot and chard, but it quickly became evident grapes that work in Texas come from places with terroir and climate similar to Texas, not northern or central France. Imagine that.
Grapes defining Texas wine today:
• Tempranillo. Rustic Spanish red—tobacco, sour cherry, strawberry, blackberry, red fruit flavors and aromas. Touriga nacional, the tempranillo of Portugal, also is in the game.
• Sangiovese. Tuscan star—robust flavors, red currant, roasted tomato, cherry, mild tannins.
• Mourvèdre. French Rhône—earthiness, plum, blackberry, soft red fruit. Great blending wine.
• Vermentino. Sardinian white—white flowers, lime, grapefruit, mango, pear notes.
• Viognier. French Rhône—orange, pineapple, apricot flavors and flamboyant honeysuckle aroma.
• Roussanne. French Rhône—brings bright acidity and minerality to white blends.
Texas up. Toast the 181st anniversary of San Jacinto victory with a Texas wine this Friday.
Tasting notes for widely-distributed Texas wines:
• McPherson Sangiovese 2014: Palate-pleasing easy sipper. $12
• Duchman Family Winery Vermentino 2015: Tart, delicious, works with variety of foods. $14
• Becker Vineyards Texas Tempranillo 2014: Very drinkable, easy-to-like, priced nice. $14
• Pedernales Cellars Texas Tempranillo 2014: Seriously good at a fair price. $17
Last round: The best thing about wine is it makes you like everyone more, including yourself.
Email Gus at firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Gus Clemens on Wine. Twitter: @gusclemens. Website: gusclemens.com.