If you thought Texas couldn’t make decent wine – you need to read this

The USA is the full of surprises, and that’s not just reserved for politics, it’s also evident in its wines. If you’re an everyday wine lover living outside the US bubble, you’ll be forgiven for thinking American wine is like its fast food; mass produced and overloaded with too much flavour. You see, that’s basically what’s exported, the uninteresting wines that are produced in massive quantities – they are the only wines that can be sold at ‘normal’ prices once heavy export taxes are added. The good stuff treacles in – but trust me when I tell you it’s very rare and freakin expensive!

Which brings me to my next point – interesting wine does come out of America, and it’s happening in places you wouldn’t even realise – case in point – TEXAS! Yes, that Republican, beer swilling state, actually produces damn fine wine.

And here is why…

ABC – Anything But Chardonnay (or Cabernet)

If you think Texas wine is just Californian wine but from an even hotter climate, think again. Yes the climate is different, and while they have experimented with the classical Chardonnay and Cabernet plantings to varying degrees of success – the future for Texas wines lay in varieties more suited to the warmer Mediterranean climates of Portugal, Spain, Tuscany and the Rhone.  Start thinking of varieties like Mourvedre, Rousanne, Viognier, Tempranillo, Grenache, Syrah, Vermentino, Tannat, Albarino – you get the gist – anything but Chardonnay – everything is sexy and alternative!

It’s 300 years old, but only got serious 10 years ago

The Texas wine industry was given birth some 300 years ago, but it wasn’t until the 1970s it took off – but not in a good way. Texas High Plains was replanted from cotton, but because Chardonnay and Cabernet was taking off in California, they naturally thought this was the way to go (big mistake, BIG). And because these varieties couldn’t compete with the might and terroir of the Napa, the industry soon died down. In fact, the real resurgence of quality has only really taken place in the past 10 years, thanks to a small band of wineries that said no to Chardonnay and Cabernet and yes to better suited Mediterranean varieties.

Scandal – not all Texas wine comes from Texas – it’s diluted with cheap Californian wine (but that’s changing – thankfully)

During Texas’ 1970’s boom to the present day focus on quality vineyard practices growning more suitable varieties, to keep the Texas wine industry afloat, the lawmakers of the land actually allowed grapes to be imported from California and be labelled as Texas wine.  SCANDAL!  And to this day, some rogue wineries who don’t care about provenance prop up their wines with imported grape juice because regulations still permit a label to say it is Texas wine if it only contains 75% Texas grapes. Texas Hill Country or Texas High Plains regions however, or any of the AVA designated regions (they are the better regions), only have to contain 85% grapes from that region. If you ask me, Texas wine should be made up of 100% Texas grapes. How they hell can you promote a wine’s proper ‘terroir’ if it contains fucking grapes from fucking California! [rant over, and breathe!] On social media, checkout #realtexaswine and you’ll be pointed in the right direction!

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100% Texas wines are the future – and you can thank these guys

A tight group of quality Texas wineries are now fighting to have these laws changed, believing the state will only be taken seriously once the prominence can be trusted and the flavours are an expression of the land.

By far the best wines I tasted were the wines that were 100% Texas, all made by relatively young winemakers, who have each other’s back. They employ best practice, adhere to minimal intervention and share ideas. The three wineries I rated among the top, also happen to be very good friends with one another, sharing ideas and the passion for Texas wine. They are William Chris winery, Calais Estate winery and Lewis Wines. The passion they have, and the recognition their wines have been receiving, has spawned a flurry of wineries planting vineyards of the right varieties in the right locations, and not diluting the wine with juice imported from California. These new players are 100% Texas and Proud. Look out for these wineries and support them when you do find them. You will not be disappointed.

Wineries to look out for

William Chris Winery – Mourvedre specialist and one of my favourite Texas producers – these wines are so good, 50% of the entire year’s stock sells out in the first week of release!

Calais Winery – Cabernet specialists.  One of my top 3 wineries, and their Cabernets are stellar, every bit as good as Napa, but with its own Texas stamp of flavour.  It took a Frenchman coming to live in Texas to prove Cabernet grapes can be grown in Texas. He also produces a mean Rousanne

Lewis Wines – my other top three. Doug is only 30 years old but is already turning Texas on its head with his business partner, Duncan McNabb.  Check out their Spanish, Portuguese and Rhone variety wines.

Pedernales Cellars – Delicious Spanish varieties of Albarino and Tempranillo

Becker Vineyard – great value Rhone variety wines of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre delivering great flavour.

Spicewood Vineyard – you’ve gotta check out the Good Guy blend – a heady mix of Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.  100% Texas and top shelf stuff.

Duchman Family Winery – Check out their super delicious reds – Aglianico and Montepulciano

Fall Creek – gave birth to the modern Texas winemaking movement in the 1970s. They have a very sexy Grenache Syrah Mourvedre blend. They’re also just down the road from the world famous Salt Lick BBQ. This is arguably the best place in all of Texas to eat BBQ, and it needs to be on your bucket list before you die!!

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20 comments

  1. If I could add one to your list I’d suggest Bending Branch Winery. Their Texas Tannat is outstanding. They make a couple of Tannat, including one from High Plains fruit and one from Californian fruit. Their Texas Estate Tannat is consistently the best of the bunch. It’s not alike a Madiran or South American Tannat. It’s unique…and delicious.

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      • Oh, there are so many! The Finger Lakes is probably the most famous area. My sisters go there every year and still haven’t hit all the good places. It’s loaded with wineries that are slowly gaining national and worldwide reputations, but other areas are developing as well. I’ve explored beverage trails in Cooperstown and the Thousand Islands. I’d better start doing more blog posts about wine.

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  2. Have you tried Stone House? A South Aussie who moved to Austin 40 odd years ago, they also make a few Barossa Valley wines only for the US as well as a couple of local Texas wines

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  3. Wow!!! I did not know that Texas wines r on the wine map. Especially since percentages of grapes wouldn’t be 100% from that region. Look forward to learning, visiting, and tasting Texas Wines!!!🤗Wahoo 🍇🍇🍷🍷🍷

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  4. Everyone always overlooks Westcave Cellars. They have been making 100% Texas wine for years. They need more credit and it seems they never get recognized.

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  5. I don’t know about “beer swilling,” but you should know that Texas was heavily populated, from the mid-1800s up to World War I, by emigrant Germans, so we come by our heritage (in drinking as in other matters) honestly. Thank you for your recommendations in Texas wineries.

    * * * * *

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  6. You are right Drew, we are full of surprises over here! 🙂

    Anyone growing Lacrima di Morro outside of Italy? My better half recently purchased some sparkling Lacrima di Morro. It is hard to get.

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  7. We are visiting DFW, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Marfa……any suggestions for good wine near these cities….?

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