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Harvest time at Messina Hof Hill Country Winery

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The Road Forward for Texas Wine

A Q&A with Texas Wine Writer Russell Kane

Dr. Russell D. Kane is a wine writer, blogger and certified master naturalist whose book, "The Wine Slinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine," offers an insider’s look at the heart and soul of Texas wine.  He spoke with TWCL about the state of the industry and its future.

The Texas Legislature Recently Passed a New Wine Labeling Law. What are the Benefits for Consumers?

The law makes it a lot easier to identify true Texas wines. It gives the consumer, or restaurant beverage manager, or sommelier the ability to identify wines comprised of 100 percent grapes from Texas. It’s a major step.

The Latest Data Shows Millennials Are Drinking Less Wine and Baby Boomer Consumption Is Down. Should the Wine Industry Worry?

Though older people are drinking less wine than they used to, I see lots of millennials enjoying wine. They’re in the tasting rooms. They’re at the wine bars. So this may not be as big of a problem as some make it out to be.

Which Grapes Are Best-Suited for Texas?

We’re the Mediterranean of the U.S.A. Our biggest wine-growing region, the High Plains AVA, has warm days and relatively cool nights, characteristics that convey the Mediterranean.  And what grapes are winning the awards for Texas wines? Those from the Mediterranean climes of Europe: Spain, France, Italy, Sicily. 

Tempranillo is a great example. It also links back to our Spanish heritage and the missionaries who planted vineyards in the 1660s. Others are Montepulciano, Aglianico, Syrah; and white Rhone varietals such as Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne.

Also, one of the world’s oldest grape varietals, Moscato. And the number one harvested white grape—and making great wines in Texas--is the Blanc du Bois, which is a surprise to a lot of people. It can grow almost anywhere. 

All this is not to say that everyone has stopped growing Cabernet and Merlot though. 

What Do You Say to Wine Lovers Who Eschew Texas Wines?

Texas wines are winning double gold and best of show at major competitions. To get double gold, everyone on the panel has to agree, not just the majority of judges. Before COVID, I tracked the 2018 results of the two major San Francisco competitions, which included wines from around the world. Texas won more double gold and best of show than wines from any other region that entered these competitions. We’ve finally arrived. 

What Does the Future Hold for Texas Wine?

We’ve got a lot of support now from Texas universities in winemaking and viticulture. They’ve solved many problems. The current issue is dicamba, a toxic herbicide used by cotton farmers in the High Plains. Cotton is resistant due to genetic engineering, but when dicamba blows through the vineyards, you have devastation. It’s made grape growers seek legal action. 

Texas is the number five wine-producing state, with a tourism and economic impact equal to the number two state, Washington. We have the advantage, because Texas is centrally located in the U.S., and it’s only a short drive from our urban centers to the wineries. Grapes and wine in Texas are a $13 billion dollar industry. That’s a big number.

We’re definitely on the vertical portion of the economic hockey stick, but we have a hard time exceeding local demand! The challenge is how to get more grapevines into the ground. Texas needs not the current 6,000 acres, but twice that, 12,000 to 15,000 acres. If I can live long enough to see that, it will solve our problems, and we’ll have enough wine to export. 

  • A cluster of Blanc du Bois grapes at Haak Vineyards in Galveston County
  • Dr. Russell Dane - Wine Writer and Blogger
  • Harvest time at Messina Hof Hill Country Winery