As much as many of us love California wine, we simply shouldn’t expect that style of wine to be made in Texas. Not a week goes by that I don’t have a conversation with someone in the tasting room about how different Texas wines are compared to other regions of the world, especially California. Now don’t get me wrong, these are fun and educational conversations to have with guests, but all too often I feel people genuinely expect Napa Valley-type wines to be made in the Lone Star state. Let’s discuss a few reasons why Texas wine is different than Napa, and why we should embrace Texas-style wines.
1: First and foremost, let me state the obvious…it’s Texas darn it! If you want California wine, there are shelves full of it at your local wine shop. Wine grapes have been planted in Texas since the 1600’s. We have a long and storied history of wine growing in Texas, so let’s embrace the heck out of it!
2: Support local. This may seem like a redundant statement but it’s so important to keep the local industry thriving by supporting local businesses. Us Texans are a proud bunch of folks, and I have seen such tremendous support over the last several years from our local wine consumers. Thank you! Thank you, to each and every one of you! Supporting local also means supporting a different style of wine than you may be accustomed to. In this case, hot climate wines vs. the cooler climate wines of Napa Valley.
3: Our short and extremely warm growing season constitutes an earlier harvest traditionally vs. regions like Napa. This means Texas wine won’t typically have the time on the vine to become the extremely ripe, highly extracted fruit forward wines we have come to expect from Napa. You should expect softer and more earth driven Texas wines because of this.
4: Texas growers are focusing more and more on growing later bud-breaking grape varieties to try and avoid late spring frost damage as much as possible. This means grapes like Chardonnay, which is world famous in Napa, aren’t necessarily the best choice to produce for much of the state.
5: Many of the vines in Texas are very young. This doesn’t mean bad wine by any stretch of the imagination; however, it does mean many of our wines won’t have quite the depth and complexity as some from Napa that are produced using mature vines that are at least 10-15 years of age. The good news is Texas vineyards are aging every year, which means more complex and interesting wines are on the way in the coming vintages.
6: Texas makes some of the best Tempranillo on the planet! This is a grape that is not necessarily crazy popular to grow in Napa. Next time you’re at a Texas winery, instead of asking for their Cabernet Sauvignon, ask for a Tempranillo. This way you can enjoy that medium to full bodied tannic red wine that has begun to make Texas world famous. Tempranillo has become to Texas what Cabernet Sauvignon is to Napa Valley.
7: French-style Merlot is something to savor when it comes to Texas wine. Napa Valley produces over-extracted, high alcohol Merlot most of the time. This is a great thing, because people like me absolutely love Napa Merlot. However, I meet many people who say they hate Merlot, but once they taste Texas Merlot, their mind is completely changed. This is because Texas terroir offers a stunning version of Merlot. Soft, elegant, sexy, and earthy. That is what you can expect from high quality Texas Merlot. It is much closer to the French style, than California style.
8: Did someone say Viognier? OMG! There is no doubt Texas produces some of the most beautiful and delicate Viognier on planet Earth. Napa Valley indeed produces Viognier, and to a very high standard, but in my opinion, they don’t even come close to Texas. Now Napa Chardonnay? That is their baby, and they undeniably produce some of the finest around. Long story short, when visiting a Texas winery, don’t expect two to three Chardonnays to choose from. Expect warm weather grape varieties that are stunningly aromatic such as Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Albariño, and Vermentino.
9: Blends…blends as far as the eye can see. We have embraced blended wines in Texas to a large extent, and this is a good thing. Blends tend to be very balanced, super complex, and very interesting on the palate. Napa Valley blends many wines as well, however, you will find a large extent of their wines to be varietal wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc being the leaders of the pack.
10: Lastly, try and let go of the notion that the unknown is a scary thing. I know it can be intimidating to walk up to the tasting bar and not recognize many of the grapes on the menu, but this is something Texans are adapting to at a fast pace, and it makes me so proud when a first time visitor walks into the winery and asks for a Tempranillo or Mourvèdre by name!
I hope this gets you thinking about why Texas is unique, and why Texas wine consumers should not be expecting Napa Valley-style wines to be produced here. I love Napa wines personally, and there are many in our home cellar. But, Texas wine is unique and it should be completely embraced for the style that it is. If you’re a huge fan of Napa wines as I am, try and turn your thoughts away from that mindset when tasting Texas wines. I think you might find slightly more appreciation for them if you do.
Sip, savor, and enjoy my fellow aficionados.