How Texas Winemakers are Gaining Recognition in Europe
The first vineyards were planted in Texas three hundred and fifty years ago and it is fair to say that Texan wine has come a long way since then. In 2000, there were only forty wineries however, by 2023 that number has increased to over five hundred.
European winemakers are taking notice of Texan vintners for their innovative techniques in viticulture and winemaking, as well as those honoring traditional methods that result in well-balanced wines.
Their wine success story has now put them in the spotlight of the wine world. It is about time and is well-deserved. But why is a new world wine region causing so much interest in the old world?
Experimentation with less popular grape varieties
Texan winemakers are going boldly where no winemaker has gone before by introducing less popular grape varieties into their vineyards.
Experiments with different varietals have led to the creation of some really exciting new wines.
There are over fifty different grape varieties under cultivation in Texas including the 15 wild species (Texas has the most native species of any wine-producing area in the world) that are native to the area.
Through trial and error, Viticulturists have determined which grapes are best adapted to the climate and terroir of each of the different wine-growing regions in Texas which has resulted in the production of some very interesting and even exceptional wines.
Impressed by the success of the Texans, Europeans have followed suit and are also beginning to experiment with non-traditional grape varieties in their vineyards with a great deal of success.
Sustainable farming practices
Like many other wine-producing regions, unpredictable weather conditions can be a viticulturist's worst nightmare as he or she has no control over them and therefore must do everything possible to adapt to Mother Nature’s constantly changing temper throughout the year.
Flooding, hurricanes, winter superstorms, cyclones, blizzards, flooding, and wildfires are just a few of the weather challenges that are faced every growing season.
It sounds like an impossible scenario to win right? Not if you are Texan, challenges are met with an amazing level of resiliency, anything is possible.
Texans have embraced sustainable winemaking practices and now many European winemakers are following the example of their Texan winemaking colleagues.
Starting to use these farming methods such as conservation of natural resources, reduction of water and energy usage, reduced packaging, protection of local wildlife, ecosystems, as well as cultivating the soil in a manner that will encourage it to remain healthy which helps the continuity of the vineyards for future generations as well as trying to reduce the carbon footprint of the winery.
Experimental and innovative ways of making wines
Europeans are famous for following the same old winemaking traditions that have been used for generations and are known for their hesitancy to embrace new winemaking technology and ideas.
The old adage, “if it is not broken don’t try to fix it” has infamously put Europeans far behind their new world counterparts in the “wine industrial revolution”.
Thankfully, the younger generations of European winemakers see the need for change and Texans have inspired them to move slowly into the winemaking future.
Texans are not afraid to experiment and they are known for their innovative ideas in wine production by using such methods as Flash détente thermovinification (A process that was created in the 1990s in South France which reduces the amount of time that red grapes need to ferment and helps to improve the quality of wine without reducing the tannins) alongside other modern equipment and their winemaking facilities have been constructed to that wine production is more efficient and cost-effective.
Unlike most wine regions, the majority of wineries in Texas do not produce their own grapes as they are not located in geographical regions that are conducive to good grape growing.
In this way, wineries and growers must work together to ensure that the grapes are grown that the winemakers desire for the particular style of wine that they are making.
Texans use winemaking techniques such as maceration and barrel fermentation and are known for making wines that have a unique flavor profile with an emphasis on the characteristics and flavors of the fruit as well as the importance of the different terroirs that grapes are grown in.
Europeans are now creating wines that are more fruit-driven than the typical traditional old-world wine style that has been produced for centuries and it is giving European wines a new sense of excitement and freshness that is long overdue.
Texan wines are winning medals in French wine competitions
Texan wines caught the attention of the French when in 2020 at the highly respected Concours de Lyon (An international competition that takes place in Lyon France where thousands of products are tasted from different countries, including wines, beers, and spirits from around the world).
Knowing a thing or two about wine competitions in France, star winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne from Kuhlman Cellars submitted her wines to this illustrious event not far from her hometown of Provence.
Over six thousand different wine samples were tasted and only nine medals were given to wines from the United States.
Kuhlman received five of these coveted awards, two gold for wines made with the traditional Rhône Valley Viognier grape (an extreme honor to win awards for wines that are made from traditional French grapes) and three silver for wines made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese grapes.
This is a testament to the continued Texan dedication to winemaking excellence, which is now being recognized internationally, and Texan winemakers can be extremely proud of the wines that they are making.
And more winemakers like Bénédicte Rhyne are seeing the potential in Texas.
Over the past several decades, the Texan wine industry has exploded and become an international wine success story.
Though the vineyards have been around for hundreds of years, Texas is still relatively young as a wine-producing region and it is delightful to see that they are trailblazers and are having such a positive impact when it comes to changing some of the outdated methods that have been used by Europeans which is helping to add new life to old world winemaking practices.
Texas is not just the Lone Star, it is the new rising star of the wine industry! Watch this space, the success story has just begun!