And the Survey Says….The Right Grapes for Texas Wine!
I recently posed the following question to members of the Facebook Texas Wine Drinkers Group:
What are the best red and white grapes for Texas? I further specified that my quest was to identify the grapes that liked to grow here, made quality wines and that consumers liked to drink.
After over a hundred responses, I tallied up the count that I have summarized in the two plots below:
For the white grapes, the over whelming favorite was Viognier. I believe that this selection was the result of the great visibility and acclaim this grape has received in Texas wines at the state, national and international level. It does not indicate that this is a particularly easy grape to grow in Texas, particularly due to the difficulties of late springtime freeze events (e.g. 2009 and 2013). An even more important results are the focus of the FB-TWD group members on Roussanne and Blanc Du Bois. These two grapes are notable for two reasons: Roussanne buds significantly later than Viognier but has many similar wine characteristics; Blanc Du Bois is our de facto state non-vinifera grape (it grows in many parts of Texas where vinifera grapes are challenged and it also makes very nice wines in a wide variety of styles. I’m particularly excited by the inclusion of Blanc Du Bois in the top three as it has the potential to be a grape that is primarily grown in Texas.
It was no surprise that Tempranillo was the hands down winner in the red grape category. As proclaimed by Jim Johnson at Alamosa Wine Cellars (and one of the first to make a commercial Tempranillo wine in Texas), “Tempranillo is the national grape of Texas.” Coming in second was Mourvedre. While this grape begs for a blending companion for optimum results, it also buds out later than most other vinifera grapes in Texas. This helps it beat the late spring freeze all to common in Texas. Mourvedre also takes its time in the Texas sun and ripens slow and steady in our summertime heat. Tannat, Sangiovese and Malbec are in the runners-up positions. Tannat (subject to lots of new plantings in Texas) is one tough son of a gun of a grape, has high levels of resveratrol (sp? – help me our Bob Young who’s its champion), and adds a dollop of color and structure to anything else in the bottle with it. Sangiovese in Texas, well my opinion is that is does well with a hit of Cabernet (or similar) in it to present it’s best. Malbec is still a mystery to me when I think about where it can or will go in Texas.
I agree with those that say that Texas is too large to be a one (or two) grape state. It’s got the size of France, please keep that in mind. I also agree with those that embrace the “Champagne Model” for Texas This model says that every year is not a vintage year. Lets plant smart, prune wisely, have lots of tank capacity and then take what nature gives us. This means use the flexibility that multi-varietal blends provide and add the even greater flexibility of multi-vintage blending, too. In Texas, we need to think as out-of-the-box as Champagne (the region) and do what we can to define a viable and sustainable winemaking industry for Texas.
Thanks to all that gave their input. Hopefully, Texas wine consumers, growers and vintners will see this as eye opening and I do.
For those of you who are not a member of the Facebook Group – Texas Wine Drinkers, but who would like to join, see the following link. It costs nothing and you get pugged in with over 2500 other Texas wine aficionados that regularly share they thoughts and tastes to their friends on the group. See: