Local News

The Grape Debate: Texas Winemakers and Grape Growers Talk Numbers While Dust Settles on HB 1514

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address

 

 

With a growing number of wine lovers taking an interest in the Texas terroir and tasting rooms specializing in Texas-only product, you might guess that a particularly inviting component about the whole mix is that the wine itself is in fact made here. For many a wine maker, such is the case, however due to the fact that the state simply doesn’t grow enough grapes to entail the entire Texas wine production industry (because just like everything else here, that too is big!) like the majority of states, Texas has adopted a federal law through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) which lays out that a wine can claim a state origin on its label with only 75 percent of that wine being from that state. The remaining 25 percent can be from anywhere else. House Bill 1514 has been proposed to increase Texas’ percentage, however, it’s a highly contentious matter for Texas producers.

The Grape Debate: Texas Winemakers and Grape Growers Talk Numbers While Dust Settles on HB 1514

Photo: Wikipedia

The only states in America that require their wine to be 100 percent made within their respective states are California and Oregon. These stricter requirements were passed via state legislation, with many arguing that such percentages add industry credibility. If HB 1514 passes, Texas wineries would still be able to produce a blended wine including product from other states, provided they correctly label the product. Texas State Representative Jason Isaac, of Dripping Springs, filed the bill requiring that wines which were labeled as coming from Texas be made with 100 percent Texas-grown grapes. Supporters believe the bill will build consumer trust, promoting transparency to the buyer while helping establish the authenticity of the state on an international level, as a wine-producing region.

The Grape Debate: Texas Winemakers and Grape Growers Talk Numbers While Dust Settles on HB 1514

Photo: Vimeopro

But proponents are far outnumbered by the opposition, consisting of a substantial margin of larger grape growers and wineries, not to mention organizations like the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA). Citing the fact that, at present, there aren’t enough grapes in the Lone Star State to support higher content percentages, those that subsequently are relegated to the labeling requirements that would be imposed by this bill could effectively lose their space in the designated Texas section at retailers, which would also dwindle considerably due to lack of fruit to fill required orders. In other words, until such time as grape production in Texas catches up to demand, this bill is creating a clearly divisive line within the industry, as well as potentially causing more damage than good. To provide consumers (and other lay people such as ourselves) with a comparison, the state of California consistently grows over 600,000 acres of grapes annually. Texas is believed to be growing anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000 acres.

The Grape Debate: Texas Winemakers and Grape Growers Talk Numbers While Dust Settles on HB 1514

Photo: Pixabay

Potential price point, as well as the adverse effect of some 100 percent wines from other states bearing a negative connotation (meaning that quality was not necessarily guaranteed), were additional arguments of the opposition to HB 1514, although calls for industry parity were heard on both sides. Smaller producers that are in support of the bill argue that the larger one’s arguments are a product of the tail wagging the dog – which is to say their market far exceeded their planning and sourcing of Texas grapes. Both sides agree that the merit and quality of 100 percent Texas-grown grapes can be increased and improved with continued cooperation and planning between winemakers and grape growers. But does this bill force that into effect prematurely, or does it necessitate change and subsequent planning that wasn’t taking effect fast enough?

The Grape Debate: Texas Winemakers and Grape Growers Talk Numbers While Dust Settles on HB 1514

Photo: Pixabay

After many testimonies by industry representatives, from grape growers to small, medium, and large winemakers in and throughout Texas, the issue remains contentious with both sides entrenched in their beliefs, and both having reasonable facts and arguments to substantiate their claims. At present, HB 1514 is “left pending in committee” per Open States, and with five sponsors but a slim likelihood of getting to the House for a vote, the Texas grape and wine producing industry has time to come to some form of homogeneity in the midst of the dust that’s been kicked up in debate.

Sources:

Austin Chronicle

The Texas Tribune

Texas Monthly