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Jessica Dupuy’s new book, The Wines of Southwest USA: A guide to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado, covers new ground for a wine book. The book groups four states that are united in their status as emerging wine regions and their location in the Southwest quadrant of the United States. The states of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and Colorado also share a desire to make world-class wine.
Although I spend a lot of time thinking about Texas wine, I had previously spent little time thinking about New Mexico wine other than Gruet, the popular sparkling wine that is widely available here in Texas. My exposure to Arizona wine was just the 110-minute running time of Maynard James Keenan’s 2010 documentary Blood Into Wine that alerted me to Arizona’s burgeoning wine industry. I only knew about one Colorado winery, and only because it’s one that Texas and Colorado share. I wrote a Texas Wine Lover story about The Infinite Monkey Theorem, a winery that started in Colorado and later expanded into Texas. Clearly, I had a lot to learn from Jessica’s book.
The book is divided into four chapters, one for each state. Within each chapter, Dupuy provides details about state history, climate, growing regions and unique challenges, soil types, grapes planted, wine styles, key producers, places to eat, and places to stay.
Here are a few key takeaways by state:
- New Mexico’s first vineyard plantings were the first in the United States and pre-dated California’s plantings by around 140 years
- Three AVAs including Mesilla Valley which is shared with Texas
- 55 wineries and 1,500 vineyard acres planted
- Wide variety of grapes planted
- Advantages: soils, elevation, generally dry, cool nights, “Viva Vino” tagline and related programs helps unify industry
- Challenges: late spring frosts, untimely rain during harvest, winter snow aka “Goliaths,” short growing season, high winds cause shatter, high heat
- Rapidly growing industry with impressive focus on quality
- 115 wineries and 1,200 vineyard acres planted
- Three viticultural areas and two official AVAs (one pending)
- Mediterranean varieties and some Bordeaux are planted
- Advantages: large diurnal range, high elevation vineyards, wide variety of localized climate conditions, reputation for quality wine
- Challenges: plant diseases, late spring frost, hailstorms, monsoon season, legal limits on winery size
- 90% of the state’s plantings are in two AVAs
- About 1,000 acres of vineyard acres planted, much between 4,000 and 4,800 feet in elevation
- 140 licensed wineries
- Bordeaux and German varieties are popular, and hybrid varieties show promise as well. (~18% of plantings are non-vinifera)
- Cold weather events are problematic for vineyard managers, but hybrid varieties tolerate the cold temperatures better than vinifera
- Advantages: young, growing industry, diversity in geography, high elevation sites, large diurnal range, generally low humidity
- Challenges: consumer perception of hybrid varieties, cold weather, short growing season
The Texas chapter is similarly filled with historical context, thought-provoking observations, and 35+ thorough winery profiles. The section on challenges in Texas covers not only weather events, but also mentions pesticide drift and the industry’s misalignment on issue of making wine with 100% Texas grapes. Dupuy writes that some would call this last issue the state’s most significant barrier to success. (Hear her personal take on this topic on “This Is Texas Wine” podcast that aired last week. You can find the podcast here.)
“While there have been a few blips of success in the past, with national awards and a growing interest among Texan wine consumers, the defining era of Texas wine is arguably right now. More than a decade of focus and refinement from progressive winegrowers and producers has elevated Texas wine into a promising new era.” –Jessica Dupuy
I recommend The Wines of Southwest U.S.A. for anyone interested in a deeper study of these emerging regions. The book is a must for wine students, writers, and history buffs. It is also a great guide for those who are serious about visiting the best wineries in each of these four states.
Order the book at www.jessicadupuy.com. Dupuy is autographing copies of the book that are purchased from her website. Although the books are also available at Amazon, she is selling the proper British version while supplies last!
Author Jessica Dupuy is a freelance journalist who has covered wine and food for more than a decade. She has written about Texas wine, specifically for Texas Monthly magazine since 2007. She has many other food and wine credits to her name and has authored a number of cookbooks including Uchi: The Cookbook, and The Salt Lick Cookbook: The Story of Land, Family and Love.
Dupuy holds a B.A. in History from Trinity University and an M.A. in Journalist from the Medill School of Journalist at Northwestern University. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, an Advanced Certificate holder with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and a Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators.