Texas Wine Tasting

Finding the right wine is a matter of individual taste, but there are tips and techniques every wine consumer should know. The following topics provide a “How-To” Guide for selecting, ordering and tasting Texas wine.

How To Host a Texas Two-Sip

A Texas Two-Sip tasting is a blind tasting of Texas wines alongside comparable non-Texas wines from the United States or other wine regions around the world. Download the materials below to host your own Texas Two-Sip with family and friends.
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Tasting Instructions

Tasting Sheet Option 1

Tasting Sheet Option 2

Tasting Sheet Option 3

Placemat 5 Flights

Placemat 6 Flights

 

Texas Red Varietals

Malbec

Complex, tannin-laden red with lush flavors of plums, berries and spice. Pair with beef dishes, turkey and hearty stews.

Tempranillo

Lush, smoky red with a hint of vanilla and rich, dark fruits. Pair with pizza, cabrito and tamales.

Syrah

Smokey red with soft tannins, toasted oak, berries and plums. Pair with beef stew, grilled meats, pizza and wild game.
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Sangiovese

Smooth-textured red varietal spiced with wild raspberries and licorice. Pair with beef, pork, pasta dishes and cheese.

Zinfandel

Full-bodied, bold and fruity red bursting with berries and spice. Pair with BBQ, red pasta sauce and pizza.

Merlot

Medium-to-full bodied red with a subtle, herbaceous flavor and soft tannins. Pair with meatloaf, grilled tuna and eggplant parmesan.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Complex, hearty red with bold flavors of cherry, cedar and chocolate. Pair with rack of lamb, T-bone steak and wild game.

Pinot Noir

Rich, smooth red with delicate notes of black cherries and cloves. Pair with duck, salmon and turkey.

Lenoir

Deep, dark red with notes of raspberry, cinnamon, cherry-chocolate, clove and brown sugar. Pair with raspberries and chocolate, as well as duck, venison and brisket.

Texas White Varietals

Chardonnay

Clean, crisp, well-balanced white with big flavors of citrus and oak. Pair oak-aged with light beef with cream sauces or smoked chicken; unoaked with lobster and veal.

Blanc du Bois

Light, fresh-finished white with notes of grapefruit and apples. Pair with fish with lemon butter sauce, pasta Alfredo and pineapple chicken.

Pinot Grigio

Creamy, slightly perfumed white with rich color and a fresh palate. Pair with TexMex, gulf fried shrimp and oysters.
Texas Wine Tasting

Viognier

Intense, slightly spicy white with notes of floral, peach and apricot. Pair with lettuce wraps (Chinese), white fish with mango salsa and paella.

Riesling

Crisp, unobtrusive white accented by rich, fruit flavors and a floral bouquet. Pair with Indian cuisine, Greek salad and Jamaican pork.

Sauvignon Blanc

Silky smooth white with floral, grassy and delicate herbal properties. Pair with fish, shrimp, cream soups and veggies.

Chenin Blanc

Delicate, floral white with a dry, well-balanced finish. Pair with cheese crepes, quiche and Waldorf salad.

Orange Muscat

Fruity, sweet white with notes of gooseberry and orange peel. Pair with ice cream, dark chocolate and smoked salmon.

Muscat Blanc

Light, fragrant white accented by coriander, peach and citrus flavors. Pair with fish, pasta, raw vegetables and soups.

Muscat Canelli

Fresh, fruity white retaining the zesty flavors of the grape. Pair with chocolate, fresh fruit, fish and pasta.

Gewurtztraminer

Full-bodied, pungent white characterized by fruity, nutty flavors. Pair with BBQ, sushi and blackened fish.

Semillon

Bold and oaky, this sweet white carries hints of honey and figs. Pair with fried catfish, olive tapenade and fried chicken, as well as blue cheese or crème brûlèe.
 
Texas Wine Tasting

How to Taste Wine

Wine tasting is a time-honored art anyone can enjoy. Enrich your satisfaction with these easy and entertaining steps.

Seeing the Wine

Look at the wine in a glass. Pay attention to color (Is it red? Or more maroon?) and clarity.

Tilt the glass and swirl. Is it clear or cloudy? Any sediment or bits of floating cork?

Remember, an older red is more translucent, a younger red is opaque.

Smelling the Wine

Smell the wine. Gently swirl the glass to release the bouquet. Stick your nose into the glass and inhale. Notice the complex aromas. Is it floral? Fruity? Oaky? A pleasing bouquet is a wonderful indication of a good wine.

Tasting the Wine

Take a small sip and roll it around on your tongue, then take a quick breath and mix the wine with air. Did the flavors open up? Reds often have an oaky or berry flavor. Whites are more likely fruity or floral.

Swallow. How does the wine finish? Does the flavor linger or pass quickly? Consider the texture--is it light-bodied like water, or full-bodied like milk.

Your evaluation of the wine depends on your personal taste, but this technique gives you the best overall reflection of the wine’s elements.

 

How to Buy Texas Wines

Buying a Texas wine is as easy as following the “Three P’s”

Price

Quality Texas wines are available in every price range, so choose a bottle that is as pleasing to your pocketbook as it is to your palate.

Preference

Taste is a personal thing and you’ll establish your own preferences as you become familiar with a variety of wines. But for a party or dinner, there are guests preferences to consider. For experienced wine enthusiasts, a full-bodied cabernet or syrah might be a wonderful selection. But for those new to wine, the safer choice is a good merlot, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc or muscat.

Pairing

The selection process might be easier if you’re looking for something to pair with dinner. The general rule is whites with poultry, fish and highly-flavored foods. Choose reds for beef, game dishes and heavier meals. And for dessert, choose a wine that’s sweeter than the dish to be served (Port or Riesling are excellent choices.)

Remember, rules were made to be broken. The only important rule is that you choose a Texas wine that you enjoy.

Texas Winery Listings

If you would like to order your favorite Texas wine, it is now as simple as contacting the winery with your order and working out the shipping details.

 
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Decoding the Wine Label

A wine label can be daunting. Follow this guide to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of your next wine selection.

Winery

The facility (often a brand name) that produced the wine.

Appellation

At least 75 percent of the wine is produced from grapes grown in the place named.

Texas

At least 75 percent of the wine is produced from grapes grown in Texas.

Texas Vineyard

Wines with a Texas vineyard mean 100 percent of the wine came from grapes grown on this vineyard.

For Sale in Texas Only

Between 25 percent and 74.9 percent of the wine is made with Texas grapes, and this wine can only be sold in Texas.

American

Less than 25 percent of the wine is made with Texas grapes.

Viticultural Area

At least 85 percent of the wine was produced with grapes from that American Viticultural Area (AVA), a grape-growing region distinguished by geographical features.

Vintage

The year the grapes used in the wine were harvested.

Variety

The kind of grapes that were used in the making of the wine.

Estate Bottling.

Indicates the wine was made from grapes harvested on their own vineyard.

Learn more about decoding wine labels here.

 

How Wine Is Made

The winemaking process includes a few simple steps and a lot of skill. Here are the basics.
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Harvest:

Grapes are picked from the vineyard.

Sorting:

The grapes are examined for quality and ripeness and the best are chosen for wine production.

Crusher/Destemmer:

A mechanized process of removing the stems and crushing the juice from the fruit.

Fermentation:

A tank process where the concoction is allowed to ferment.

Blending:

A formulaic process of mixing grapes and flavors to create a particular taste.

Barrel Aging:

Wood barrels are commonly used to age wine for a period of months or years, maximizing the flavor.
 

Vintage Terms

Wine Terminology

Wine has its own language. This glossary provides a brief description of common wine terms.

Acidification

The addition of acid (usually tartaric during fermentation, frequently necessary in hot climates where grapes tend to over-ripen and become deficient in acidity, thereby losing freshness.

Acidity

The acids in a wine (principally tartaric, malic, citric and lactic) provide liveliness, longevity and balance: too much leaves a sour or sharp taste on the palate, while too little results in a flabby, shapeless wine. If tannin is the spine of a wine, then acidity is its nervous system.

Barrel or Cask

Most of the world’s greatest wines are at least partially aged in barrels, usually made from oak. A barrique is the standard Bordeaux barrel, holding 225 liters or the equivalent of about 300 bottles of wine. But casks may be as large as 100 hectoliters (i.e., 10,000 liters) or more.

Chaptalization

The addition of sugar during fermentation to increase a wine’s alcoholic strength.

Fermentation

The conversion of grape juice into wine through the action of yeasts present in the juice, which turn sugar into alcohol. This alcoholic fermentation is also known as primary fermentation. (See Malolactic Fermentation.)

Filtration

A method of clarifying and stabilizing wine to give it a pleasingly lucid color and to remove yeasts, bacteria or other solid matter that might otherwise spoil the wine after its has been bottled. Excessive filtration, like excessive fining, can strip a wine of aroma, body, texture and length.

Fining

A method of clarifying wine by pouring a coagulant (such as egg whites) on top and letting it settle to the bottom. In general, a fining agent is allowed to fall through the wine, while in filtration, the wine is passed through a filter.

Lees

Solid residue (mostly dead yeast cells and grape pulp, pips and skins) that remains in the cask after the wine has been drawn off. Many white wines and some reds are kept on their lees for a period of time to protect them from oxidation, enrich their textures and add complexity. Wines protected by lees contact can often be made with less sulfur addition, but careful technique is essential to ensure that off aromas don’t develop.

Malolactic Fermentation

A secondary fermentation in which the more tart malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Malolactic fermentation, which generally follows the alcoholic fermentation, is nearly always carried out in red wines. Some producers of white wines encourage malolactic fermentation, while others, especially those in hot regions that produce grapes with low levels of acidity, avoid it in order to retain the wine’s freshness.

Must

Grape juice not yet fermented or in the process of being fermented into wine.

Racking

Transferring the wine from one cask to another to separate it from the lees.

Sediment

Solid matter deposited in a bottle during the course of the maturation process. Sediment is generally a sign that the wine was not excessively filtered prior to bottling.

Sulfur

The most common disinfectant for wine. Most winemakers feel that it is nearly impossible to produce stable wine without judicious use of sulfur products at one or more stages of vinification: just after the harvest to thwart fermentation by the wrong yeasts, in the cellar to prevent microbial spoilage and oxidation and at the time of bottling to protect the wine against exposure to air. But as a general rule, the amount of sulfur used in the production of fine wine has never been lower than it is today.

Tannin

A bitter, mouth-drying substance found in the skins. Stalks and pips of the grapes – as well as in wood barrels. Tannin acts as a preservative and is thus an important component if the wine is to be aged over a long period. Tannins are frequently harsh in a young wine, but gradually soften or dissipate as the wine ages in the bottle.

Yeast

The various microorganisms that cause fermentation. Wild yeasts are naturally present on grape skins, but cultivated yeasts are generally used to control fermentation more carefully.

Wine Tasting Terms

Aftertaste

The flavor that lingers in your mouth after you swallow the wine. The length of the aftertaste is perhaps the single most reliable indicator of wine quality (see Finish).

Aroma

The primary smell of a young, unevolved wine, consisting of the odors of the grape juice itself, of the fermentation process, and, if relevant, of the oak barrels in which the wine was made or aged.

Astringent

Having mouthpuckering tannins; such wines may merely need time to soften.

Austere

Tough, dry and unforthcoming, often due to a severe tannic structure or simply to the extreme youth of a wine.

Balance

The ratio of a wine’s key components, including fruitiness, sweetness, acidity, tannin and alcoholic strength. A balanced wine shows a harmony of components, with no single element dominating.

Body

The weight of a wine on the palate, determined by its alcoholic strength and level of extract (see Extract). Wines are typically described as ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied.

Bouquet

The richer, more complex fragrances that develop as a wine ages.

Closed

Not especially aromatic, most likely due to recent bottling or to the particular stage of the wine’s development. Dumb is a synonym.

Corked, Corky

Contaminated by a tainted cork (caused by a chemical compound known as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole and released by certain molds), which gives the wine a musty, wet cardboard smell. Bad corks are a major problem, as they can ruin otherwise sound bottles. By most accounts 2 to 5 bottles out of 100 are affected by bad corks.

Crisp

Refreshing, thanks to sound acidity.

Earthy

Can be a component of complexity deriving from the wine’s distinctive soil character or a pejorative description for a rustic wine.

Extract

Essentially the minerals and other trace elements in a wine; sugar-free dry extract is everything in a wine except water, sugar, acids and alcohol. High extract often gives wine a dusty, tactile impression of density. It frequently serves to buffer, or mitigate, high alcohol or strong acidity.

Fat

Rich to the point of being unctuous, with modest balancing acidity.

Finish

The final taste left by a sip of wine after you swallow. Wines can be said to have long or short finishes (see Aftertaste).

Firm

Perceptibly tannic and/or acidic, in a positive way.

Flabby

Lacking acidity and therefore lacking shape.

Fruity

Aromas and flavors that derive from the grape, as opposed to the winemaking process or the barrels in which the wine was aged.

Green

Too acid, raw or herbal; this may be due to under ripe grapes or stems but may simply mean the wine needs time to develop.

Grip

An emphatically firm, tactile finish.

Hard

Too tannic or acidic; often a characteristic of a wine that needs more time in bottle.

Hot

Noticeably alcoholic.

Jammy

Slightly cooked flavors of jam rather than fresh fruit, often a characteristic of red wines from hot climates.

Lean

Lacking flesh and body. Not necessarily pejorative, as some types of wines are lean by nature.

Middle Palate

Literally, the part of the tasting experience between the nose of the wine and its finish. The impact of a wine in the mouth.

Mouth Feel

The physical impression of a wine in the mouth; its texture.

Nose

The aroma or bouquet.

Oaky

Smell or taste of the oak cask in which the wine was vinified and/or aged; oak notes can include such element as vanilla, clove, cinnamon, cedar, smoke toast, bourbon and coffee.

Oxidized

Possessing a tired or stale taste due to excessive exposure to air. An oxidized white wine may have a darker than normal or even brown color.

Powerful

Generally high in alcohol and/or extract.

Sharp

Unpleasantly bitter or hard-edged.

Soft

Low in tannin and/or acidity.

Spritz

The faint prickle on the tongue of carbon dioxide (petillance in French), generally found in young, light white wines.

Steely

An almost metallic taste often noted in wines high in acidity and/or made from mineral-rich soil-especially Riesling.

Supple

Round and smooth, as opposed to noticeably tannic or acidic.

Sweet

A term applied not just to wines with significant residue sugar but also to those that show outstanding richness or ripeness.

Tart

Noticeably acidic.

Tough

Generally, a red wine that shows excessive tannin.

Vinous

Literally wine-like, in terms of liveliness and acidity; but often used to describe the overall impression conveyed by a wine beyond simple fruitiness. This can include subtle flavors that come from the soil that produced the grapes, as well as from the winemaking and aging process.

Volatile

Slightly vinegary due to a high level of acetic acid, referred to as volatile acidity (VA). But a minimum level of VA often helps to protect a wine’s aromas without resulting in an unstable bottle. “High-toned” is jargon for faintly volatile, and is not necessarily pejorative.