It is hard to believe, but October is about halfway finished. As the skeletons and ghosts pop up on front porches, it is a good time to sit back and sip a glass of wine. After all, October is also Texas Wine Month.
Last September, I wrote about the state of the wine industry in North Carolina during the Tar Heel State’s Wine Appreciation Month. Now that I’m a Texan*, I figured it is as good a time as ever to talk about the Lone Star State Wine industry.
As many of the winemakers we’ve run into tell us, Texas wine is truly coming into its own. Wine is a $2 billion industry in Texas. According to a 2011 study by Texas Tech University, wine employs more than 11,000 workers. That’s up from only 1,800 a decade earlier. There are now more than 220 wineries in the state, producing 2.5 million gallons a year. Texas is the 4th largest wine producing state in the United States, although greatly shadowed by California.
Jay Knepp, vineyard manager at Salt Lick Cellars put it best: Texas is where Napa was 40 years ago. The rapid growth of the industry in Texas could eventually push the state into international recognition.
But that doesn’t mean everything is a yellow rose in Texas’ wine industry. Recent cuts from the state for grape development research is worrying some vintners. Texas’ unique climate means certain grapes won’t grow well here. Texas cannot be dependent on California researchers for grapes here. The cuts also mean an end to marketing and promotions funded by tax dollars. One of Kate’s and my favorite promotions, the Texas Wine Passport ended last October because of a lack of funding.
Another side effect noticeable since the state cuts: a lack of cohesiveness among wineries for data. The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association does have some statistics but most are outdated. The Texas Department Of Agriculture’s wine web page is also outdated with 2011 numbers only. It is difficult to understand the state of the Texas wine industry as a whole without some external connection.
Some Wine makers in the Texas Hill Country give anecdotal signs of growth. Flat Creek Estate says it has grown from 5 workers in 2002 when it opened to more than 20 today. They have also expanded their production from about 8,500 cases a year to 10,000. There are also new wineries opening little by little. Kate and I visited one of the most recent to open and had a great time. More to come in a future post…
Some parting thought as we celebrate Texas Wine Month. Texas needs to think both globally and locally. Recently, Rabobank released its study into the global wine market. 2012 is expected to be a turning point. Wine consumption is back up (after a dip during the recession) while wine production (mainly out of Europe) is expected to decline. American wineries, including those from Texas, have an opportunity to move in on this growing
international demand. It simply takes a forward thinking winemakers.
*I’m still waiting for Kate to let me get a belt buckle and cowboy hat.