Spirits

A Triumphant Texas Vintage

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When you speak vintages, you normally refer to a wine of high quality that is made primarily from grapes harvested in one specific year — as in, “the 1959 Bordeaux vintage is both sensual and delicious, and is worth searching for in efforts to gain an understanding on exactly why a fine wine is one that has been aged for decades.”

In this case of course, ‘59 was considered a good year. Such is also the case for the year 2015. It’s ironic, considering the first reference is in terms of decades, however the second refers to the overall success of the Texas wine industry as a whole. And friends, 2015 was a great vintage for the state!

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A remarkable time for Texas wine and grapes, 2015 marked the state of Texas surpassing New York and becoming the fourth largest wine producer, just behind Washington and Oregon (second and third, respectively, with California being first.) Containing a large share of more than 4,000 acres of producing vineyard farmland state-wide, the Texas Hill Country has quickly become one of the two great wine regions in Texas.

And, although the number of operating wineries within the entire state is not known, it is estimated as ranging from 350-400 in total, with numerous quality grape varietals. In order to have a wine varietal mention an AVA (American Viticulture Area) on its label, at least 75% of the volume of that wine must come from grapes that are grown in that particular area. An AVA is known as a wine grape-growing region, designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, with distinguishable geographic features and boundaries.

Members of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wine Committee

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The state of Texas has 8 AVA’s, the largest of which is the Texas Hill Country, containing more than 9 million acres in total. THC is also recognized as the second largest AVA in the entire United States! (The largest is considered the Upper Mississippi River Valley, stretching across 4 states.)

Likewise, the Texas High Plains is another significant AVA for the state, consisting of more than 8 million acres, and growing more than 80% of the state’s wine grapes. The other 6 AVA’s in Texas include Escondido Valley, Bell Mountain, Mesilla Valley, Texas Davis Mountains, Texoma, and Fredericksburg – host location for the prestigious 2016 Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference.

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Demonstrated by expansions and the addition of tasting rooms, Texas wineries are developing into big business from their once humble beginnings (Trivia tidbit: Texas was the site of the very first vineyard established in North America by Franciscan priests circa 1662.)

With growing demand for exclusive Texas wines, wineries throughout the state are expanding as best as possible to meet the need, one such example being the Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, established in 1976, which is now the largest premium winery in the state of Texas, producing 160,000 cases of wine per year. Notably, their wines have been distributed to Europe and Asia, and have also been served at the White House.

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Texas wine tourism also benefits from this boon and has worked to increase its market share to meet the needs of an ever-growing population of wine enthusiasts. A banner year for not only wineries, viticulturists, and their supporting tourism entities, the wine tourist themselves can see, experience, and taste the fruits of their labor in the Texas terroir!