For Grape Growers


The Texas wine industry has its roots in a thriving grape industry. The Texas Department of Agriculture assists the state's growers with information, seminars and networking opportunities that improve the quality of Texas wine grapes and make the industry more competitive.

Introduction

Texas wine has come a long way since its emergence in the late 1970s as a new industry with a bright future. The industry has grown and matured and today Texas is the country’s fifth-leading wine state, producing varietals, table, dessert and sparkling wines. The state has more than 130 wineries, eight designated appellations of origin and wines that distinguish themselves in national and international competitions.

Still, Texas wines face competition. California produces 75 percent of all the wine consumed in the United States, while Chilean, French and other imports take a big bite out of U.S. wine sales. What’s more, a Texas Cabernet Sauvignon does not taste like a California Cabernet or a French Bordeaux, a fact that can create market resistance among some consumers.

To combat such problems and build on the industry’s success, Texas wineries need consistent quality and a stable supply of grapes, higher-yielding vineyards and larger acreage for popular varietals. Texas grape growers and winemakers are not trying to imitate others, but to produce wines with a character and quality of their own, deserving of a Texas label. As the industry continues to grow, the reputation and acceptance of its wines will grow with it as both wineries and grape growers focus on producing the best product possible.

Though grape production is an exciting prospect, the subject should also be approached with a full understanding of what it takes to be successful. Wine grapes are more difficult to grow than most crops, and growing grapes in Texas is harder than growing them in California. Vineyard cultivation is a challenging, serious business.

Establishing a vineyard costs anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 an acre, depending on size, location and improvements – and that’s not including the price of land and equipment. Intense weather conditions and the presence of pests and disease can create headaches, crop losses and vine death. Pierce’s disease in particular is a serious potential problem for vineyards and is considered by many to be the single greatest threat to susceptible grapes in Texas. The risk is much lower in areas that experience severe winter temperatures, such as the South Plains and Far West Texas.

However, there is also great potential. Texas has a viable wine industry with an annual economic impact of more than $1 billion, a figure that soars even higher when tourism and hospitality events are added. Legislation in Texas amending restrictions on winery sales in dry areas has stimulated new wineries and increased demand.

Yes, Mother Nature presents challenges to growing grapes, but areas of Texas produce excellent fruit. As more producers are trained in the art of viticulture, Texas grapes and Texas’ reputation will continue to thrive.

Acknowledgements

The Texas Department of Agriculture wishes to thank:

  • Tim Dodd, Ph.D., Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute, Lubbock.
  • Ed Hellman, Ph.D., Viticulturist, Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center, Lubbock.
  • Jim Kamas, Extension Fruit Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Fredericksburg.
  • Cliff Bingham, President, Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, Grapevine.