Texas’ Self-Proclaimed Wine Czar Speaks: “What’s Good for Languedoc, is Good for Texas It’s Time for TxQA”
Drinks Business (www.thedrinksbusiness.com) recently reported….
Building upon the AOC Languedoc base first established in 2007, two new tiers have now been created: Grands Vins du Languedoc and Grands Crus du Languedoc, in a move that the industry hopes will demonstrate its improved quality rather than confuse drinkers with further fragmentation of the appellation.
Those appellations qualifying for the Grands Vins du Languedoc tier are: Minervois, Corbières, Saint Chinian, Limoux sparkling wines, Malepère, Faugères, Cabardès, Muscats and part of the Terroirs de Coteaux du Languedoc, to include Picpoul de Pinet. The higher Grands Crus du Languedoc tier encompasses Minervois La Livinière, Corbières Boutenac, Saint Chinian Roquebrun, Terrasses du Larzac, Grès du Montpellier, Pic Saint Loup, Pézenas, La Clape and still wines from Limoux.
Each category has been determined by its economic value, with a requirement to respect strict regulations. More at:
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As Texas’ self-proclaimed Wine Czar, I say….”What’s good for Languedoc, is good for Texas. It’s time for TxQA.”
Both are wine producing regions that are struggling for credibility and building a reputation in a very crowded marketplace. Finally, it looks like AOC Languedoc in the south of France has found its path forward. It’s now time for a TxQA.
Alas, in Texas, consumers still have to sort through an increasing number of wineries and brand names, some that do a good job on their wine quality and some that don’t. The real problem is that some Texas wineries that don’t do a particular focus on their wine quality are on the “main drag” that brings considerable consumer traffic, thus bring down all Texas wineries, not just themselves. Other wineries hide the fact that they offer wines in major retail outlets throughout the state that are made from grapes and/or juice that come from outside Texas using the back-label misrepresentation “For Sale in Texas Only (FSITO)”.
[I say this is representation because, it is purposely confusing. The common belief among many wine consumers - that I have talked to that are NOT wine geeks - is that FSITO wines are special Texas products for Texans only. While FSITO is per federal TTB regulations, the actual situation couldn't be farther from the truth; out of state grapes, plain and simple. Maybe "misrepresentation" isn't the correct word, and maybe you can give me a better word from your personal lexicon. Perhaps "deceptive" is a better word. Wouldn't "American Appellation" be more technically correct? That is if the label is to be clearly and easily read and understood by consumers.]
How can consumers of Texas wine, who really aren’t wine geeks, walk into their favorite store, market or wine shop and know which wines are made from Texas grapes and exhibit at least a reasonable level of quality. Right now, it’s something more like a crapshoot!
In the Drinks Business article, the key point is held in the line “Each category has ….. a requirement to respect strict regulations”. These regulations include measures to control wine quality and help wineries in managing their production and sales strategies, as well as communication and promotional programs designed to improve sales.
In Texas, we already have an excellent wine marketing support program, run as the Texas Wine Marketing Assistance Program under the auspices of the Texas Department of Agriculture (www.GoTexanWine.org). We even have a state-run extension service and a research program. However, nowhere on the horizon, do we have a wine quality program that sets a bar above which a wine could be, in a simple straightforward manner, acknowledged as a quality wine.
My proposal is that in Texas we adopt a wine quality program that is something more like what is found in Ontario Canada known as the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA); see: www.vqaontario.com. However, both the French and Canadian program are government run. This is something that our free-enterprise system in the United State (and especially in Texas) is a non-starter. What I am talking about here is an opt-in program, something that a winery could decide to participate in, or not.
Under the sponsorship of a Texas Wine Quality Alliance (TxQA), wine could be evaluated by a series of chemical analyses and would have to meet certain limits. This approach could incorporate parameters that relate to flaws. For example, two such common flaws are volatile acidity and microbial action. Additionally, a panel of non-affiliated experts would run this program and be selected to also provide sensory evaluations. Best of all, the program would be self-funded derived from a reasonable fee on every wine submitted for evaluation.
Being an opt-in program, the market would be left to prevail. Wines that meet or exceed the TxQA quality bar would receive the right to use a bottle sticker saying (TxQA – Quality Texas Wine). The, wineries could then decide to participate or not depending if they felt it would benefit their wine’s market position. Alternatively, they might choose to seek TxQA for some wines and not others, depending on their needs.
I think that the time for Texas wine quality is here. We are in a banner year for Texas vineyards after a near perfect vintage. Some have dubbed this year of 2010, the “Vintage of the Century” for Texas wine. What better time to get to work, in this notably agricultural state, to separate the wheat from the chaff; or more appropriately to separate the premium wines from the swill.
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For previous Texas Wine Czar proclamations, go to: http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=1192.
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