Thursday, March 31, 2016
Wine Producer Texas, USA
Texas, which has the size of France, is the No. 7 grape producing and the No. 5 wine producing state in the US. By law, a wine can carry the Texas name if at least 75% of the juice is harvested from the state.
Texas is the site of the first vineyard established in North America by Spanish missionaries circa 1662, long before California. As European settlers followed the development of mission outposts, they brought more grapevine cuttings, further expanding the industry through the 1800s. Following prohibition, it was not until the 1970s that there was a renewed interest in winemaking in Texas.
Today, Texas has over 4,400 acres of producing vineyard farmland. The state boasts 8 American Viticultural Areas (AVA), although many vineyards exist outside the specified AVAs. The vineyard farmland is expanding rapidly. This is partly the result of pressure on water supplies in Texas, encouraging cotton growers to switch to grapes, as the latter use only one quarter of the amount of water per acre than cotton does.
There are 350 wineries in Texas, ranging from small producers who concentrate on tourism for their sales to large wineries who have developed state and, only to a very limited extent, national markets.
The Val Verde Winery in Del Rio is the longest operating winery in the state, founded in the 1880s by Frank Qualia, a Northern Italian immigrant. There were at least 20 wineries in Texas before prohibition, but only Val Verde survived.
American Viticultural Areas (AVA)
Texas High Plains: Located west of Lubbock in the Panhandle at an elevation of 3000-4000 feet, the climate of this appellation is very dry. The Texas High Plains AVA grows over 80% of Texas’ wine grapes, although the state’s wineries are concentrated in the Texas Hill Country.
Texas Hill Country: Located west of Austin and San Antonio, this appellation, like Texas, is large. It is the second largest AVA in the USA. Two smaller appellations, listed below, have been designated within the Texas Hill Country due to the unique microclimates they embody. Many wineries are located in this scenic area.
Bell Mountain: Designated in 1986, it is the first established AVA in Texas, covering five square acres about 15 miles north of Fredricksburg within the Texas Hill Country.
Fredricksburg: This viticultural area covers about 110 acres and is located in the Texas Hill Country
Escondido Valley: This appellation established in 1992 covers 50 square miles in Pecos County in far West Texas, located near Fort Stockton
Mesilla Valley: Located at the far western tip of the Texas border north and west of El Paso, this area is hot and dry with a long growing season.
Texas Davis Mountains: This west Texas appellation is cool and wet at an elevation ranging from 4,500 to 8,300 feet.
Texoma: Located in north-central Texas, this area contains approximately 3,650 square miles along the Texas-Oklahoma line.
Harvest time in Texas is normally around the end of July - 2 months earlier than in California and 3 months earlier than in Europe.
In the High Plains, where 80% of Texas grapes are grown, the near-desert humidity produces low disease pressure, although there are other problems like late-spring frosts and severe hail storms. Vitis vinifera varieties are widespread in the High Plains.
Initially in the 1970s, as far as vitis vinifera grape varieties are concerned, the focus was on grapes that had been successful in Bordeaux and in the Bourgogne, including Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Over time, the focus shifted to Rhône varieties, including Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre and non-French varieties, including Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Viognier and Albariño.
Virtually nobody grows Pinot Noir anymore. Chardonnay is challenging to grow because it buds out early in the season, which makes the grapes subject to late spring freezes.
In the south and east of Texas, a band of Pierce’s Disease susceptibility (a fatal bacterial disease that can affect an entire vineyard) runs from the Louisiana border down the Gulf coast to Houston. That is the area where Blanc du Bois and Lenoir plantings are most common. Blanc du Bois is a hybrid grape with Italian Muscat in its heritage. Lenoir is of American heritage.
In terms of sparkling wines, both the charmat and the methode traditionelle are being used in the small but expanding Texas sparkling wine industry.
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