Texas Grape Growing! From Muscadines to Your Favorite Glass
The thought of Texas growing grapes seems unlikely right? But, what comes as a surprise to many, Texas has been growing grapes for thousands of years. A wide array of genetically unique grape species have been identified as native to Texas.
While you might not recognize the names as some of the common grapes made into wine today, i.e. Chardonnay or Merlot, Texas varietals are well-established and sturdy. They have adapted to thrive in our sometimes harsh climate. While traditional grapes do grow in the state, there are many that are proud to be born in Texas.
Beyond grapes planted with an agricultural purpose, grapes have grown on their own throughout the state, mainly along rivers and creeks for more than a thousand years. Muscadine grapes grow naturally in the wild, though they are a far cry from grapes planted with the purpose of winemaking.
One thing everyone in the industry knows is that growing grapes in Texas is tough work filled with many challenges, though many rewards as well.
History of the Texas Grapes and Limitations
The first Europeans in Texas planted old world grapes at Bellville, New Braunfels, and Fredericksburg. It can be assumed the grapes were used for beverages, though we don’t have evidence of widespread production. Vitis vinifera grapes were planted throughout Texas, though productive harvests didn’t happen. Eventually, people resorted to making Texas wine with native Texas grapes.
Limitations in Texas prohibited growth of many varietals. A variety of diseases prevented grapes from growing successfully. Pierce’s Disease is the most notable threat to Texas grapes. This bacteria mainly thrives in the southern part of the state, though it has been found in Central Texas. Pierce’s Disease can kill entire vineyards, and there is no way to control this bacteria completely.
Cotton Root Rot is another impacting factor in Texas vineyards, particularly areas with have soil with high alkaline levels. Winter freezes significantly affect Texas, as well. If you have spent any time here, you know temperatures can drop drastically and fast. In addition to winter freezes, spring frost can be detrimental, as well. Black Rot is a fungus that affects Texas grapes. Thankfully, antifungals have been developed to protect vines.
Rise of Texas Grapes
Thankfully for everyone who enjoys a rich or refreshing glass of Texas wine, there were efforts made by many to ensure the success of the Texas wine industry. Everyone from T.V. Munson, who is basically the father of viticulture in Texas, to C. O. Forester, Jr to C. O. Forester, Jr to J. H. Dunn and everyone in between has played a vital role in the industry that is booming today.
The Texas Wine Industry Now
Grapes grow throughout the state of Texas today. From the South Plains to the Far West, from the Hill Country to the West Cross Timber region, the Texas wine industry has seen dramatic growth. Production was slow at the start but continues to increase every year.
Val Verde Winery was established in 1833 and has been in production since. It is under the management of the third generation of the Qualia family. Outside of Val Verde, the first two vineyards established in Texas were in Springtown by Bobby Smith and the Sandy Land Grape Growers Association west of Lubbock. Sandy Land was created by Clint McPherson, Robert Reed, and Roy Mitchell.
The South Plains region, the area around Lubbock, is the largest grape producing region in Texas. This region is excellent because Pierce’s Disease and Cotton Root Rot do not affect the vines. Black Rot is hindered because of the dry climate. The incredible soil and cool nights are the perfect combination for high-quality fruit. Many varieties, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chenin Blanc, and Muscat Canelli all grow in this region.
In the Far West region, the majority of the acreage is owned Ste. Genevieve Vineyard in the Escondido Valley. However, there are other wineries and locations throughout the region. Though there are several limiting factors, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Ruby Cabernet, and Zinfandel grow well. The dry climate, fertile soil, and mild winters aid in the growing season.
The West Cross Timber region is in north central Texas and is made up of many smaller vineyards. Soil that is well-drained and a generally dry climate is great for grape growing. Plus, proximity to the Dallas/Fort Worth area gives the area a significant number of visitors. Grapevine has become the epicenter for grape growing and wineries in the region and is home to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association.
In the East and South regions of Texas, there is some success growing grapes. Val Verde Winery is in Del Rio and Messina Hof is in Bryan. Varieties like LeNoir, which is resistant to Pierce’s Disease, Cynthiana, and Blanc duBois grow well in the region. Many wineries also make Muscadine wine with Muscadine grapes which grow naturally and freely throughout the state.
Of course, we all love the Hill Country region west of Austin and north of Fredericksburg to San Saba. From rolling hills rich with limestone to the cool and immaculate creeks, people consider themselves lucky to call the Hill Country home. We all know peaches grow phenomenally in the region, and more and more people are realizing grapes do, too.
Today Texas if often called the “New Napa Valley.” Fredericksburg and the surrounding area alone boasts more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms. Plus, there are many more within a brief drive through the spectacular Hill Country. Wines from this region consistently win state, national, and international honors and wine competitions.
If you are looking to taste some incredible local wines, plus some not-so-local wines and some of your favorite beers, stop by Sweetbriar Rose. We are in the heart of the Texas Hill Country Wine Region. We have a fun atmosphere and incredible food and drinks to fill your heart and stomach. Stop by and enjoy not only some Texas wine but some Texas hospitality, as well.