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The Rosé Revolution

The inaugural Texas Wine Revolution sees the future of the business through rosé glasses.

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Throughout the world of wine, great regions are synonymous with a certain style. In Napa, it’s the big flavors of Cabernet Sauvignon. In Burgundy, it’s elegant, earthen Pinot Noir. In Germany, it’s pristine Riesling. And in Texas, it could just be refreshing rosé. That is, if Saturday’s inaugural Texas Wine Revolution has any sway. A first of its kind, hosted by founding winery William Chris Vineyards, in Hye, the afternoon festival kicked off a celebration of what the participating 26 wine producers call Texas-grown wine, or wines made with 100 percent Texas grapes.

The event featured nearly three dozen Texas rosés made from grapes grown in all corners of the state—from Fort Stockton to Tyler. Attendees could wander among three tented rows of booths serving tastes of pink wine, mostly served by volunteers wearing bright pink shirts that commanded “Drink Texas Pink.”  Tasty dishes from area restaurants Bryan’s on 290, Mongers Market & Kitchen, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, and Otto’s helped keep the crowd sated.

But the event was more than just a boozy Saturday afternoon—it sparked an interesting conversation that has been a growing concern for up-and-coming wine producers and grape growers throughout the state about the importance of place, specifically regarding where Texas wine—and the grapes from which the wine is made—comes from.

Although the wines at the event were 100 percent Texan, most consumers aren’t aware that not all wine that seems to be from Texas actually come from the state. There are some wines that may have a Lone Star-themed label, but sport a particular phrase on the back of the bottle that says, “For Sale In Texas Only.” That phrase, often in tiny print, is a deceptive tactic for wine that is actually made in a different state, and at least half of its contents are not from Texas. The label is legal, and is a common practice across the country—but it’s only one way Texas consumers are often fooled about what’s really in the bottle.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is the authority over wine labeling in the United States. It is the TTB’s job to review wine labels and advertisements to make sure that they provide adequate and correct information to the wine-consuming public. They also conduct product integrity field investigations to make sure that wineries are following all federal labeling and production standard for alcoholic beverages. When a winery claims on its label that the wine comes from a specific wine growing region, or appellation, the TTB requires that a minimum of 75 percent of the grapes used to produce that wine originate from that region. So if a wine claims to be from Texas, at most 25 percent of the grapes can be from another state. Although many consumers aren’t too concerned with the semantics of the topic—they’re just fine supporting a product made by Texans—others find the true origin of the content in their glass concerning.

Despite those concerns, Texas wine lovers are looking to the future with a rosy lens. Preceding the main festival, event organizers hosted a special VIP tasting in the cool, air conditioned space of the winery’s tasting room. A panel led by sommelier Rae Wilson with wine producers Chris Brundrett of William Chris Vineyards, Doug Lewis of Lewis Wines, Austin-based chef Shane Stark of Mongers, and grape grower Andy Timmons of Lost Draw Vineyards opened the discussion on why producers feel Texas-grown wine is so important, and why rosé in particular is the perfect style to complement the conversation.

“Rosé is for everybody,” said Doug Lewis. “It’s a bridge style of wine for both red and white wine drinkers, and there are so many different ones made here from a number of different varieties that work well in Texas. This is the easiest style of wine to make in Texas from the grapes we grow here, because we have the perfect balance of ripeness and acidity in the grapes from our climate and soils that make really beautiful rosé.”

As we’ve reported in previous stories, rosé has been the “new black” in wine consumption for the past few years now. Classic styles may hail from the Southern France, Spain, and Italy, but you can now easily find rosés from regions all over the world. Still, when it comes to emulating the regions from which this refreshing pink wine originated, Texas has an upper hand.

“In the past ten years, I’ve been getting more and more requests from the wineries I grow grapes for to grow some of the grapes specifically for rosé production, rather than as a byproduct of red wine production,” said Andy Timmons. “We have all of the perfect elements to make that happen consistently from year to year. And that’s not always the case with red and white grapes.”

When asked what the state could best do to help wine production in Texas, Timmons’ answer was simple: “You have to realize, that we need your support to grow grapes in Texas, rather than helping wineries bring fruit in from other states. When you do that, you’re helping farmers, particularity in North Texas, who are losing crops like cotton and peanuts due to lack of water.”

Timmons is a fourth generation High Plains farmer who once was one such cotton and peanut farmer. Now he manages some of the largest vineyard acreage in the state. “We have rural economies that depend on farming. From the consumer’s standpoint, this is a really important time in this industry. It’s growing exponentially each year, but until people can pick up a bottle and know with confidence it’s from Texas, we’re not going make it to that next chapter.”

Timmons added that the industry doesn’t just need help from the state, but from Texas wine producers as well. “They need to be transparent to the consumer about where they’re getting their fruit,” Timmons said. “But even more so, when they go out of state to buy fruit, they drag Texas grape farming down. We still need a lot more vineyard acreage planted in Texas, but that’s not going to happen if wineries decide to buy from other states.”

The panel discussion was both informative and eye opening for many in attendance. Where the conversation will go from there is yet to be seen, but if there’s one takeaway from the occasion, the “Texas Wine Revolution” was certainly a battle cry for change in the industry.

For a few suggestions on which Texas rosés to try, take a look at our list.

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  • I am very disappointed to see the kind of journalism presented here as I have tremendous respect for the author and Texas Monthly. Unless I was asleep during the VIP event prior to the festival, I did not hear the words “For Sale In Texas Only” and the entire paragraph presented here. And I certainly did not hear the statement of statistics such as “That phrase, often in tiny print, is a deceptive tactic for wine that is actually made in a different state, and at least half of its contents are not from Texas.” Can you please tell me where you got these stats? And in return I would be glad to show you a winery who uses that label with Blanc du Bois and they’re certainly not shipping 50% of Blanc du Bois wine into Texas from out of state.

    • Doug Lewis

      Jeff, considering the event was done to create awareness for 100% Texas grown wines, it makes perfect sense for a wine writer to educate consumers on the issues concerning truth-in-origin labeling in the Texas wine industry. This article and explanation to consumers is exactly what we hoped we would get with respect to media coverage.

      The MAIN reason we stressed that all the rosé’s were made from 100% Texas grapes is to build awareness about the need for Texas on a label to equal 100%. She didn’t use any statistics, she just said that a wine that has FSITO on it is just as likely to be 50% out of state juice as it is to be Texas wine. Through my own experiences, the VAST majority of FSITO wines don’t have Texas wine in them at all. Your “exception” to the rule with the Blanc Du Bois wine may actually be Texas, but for every wine produced like that, there are 99 other wines that aren’t Texas at all, and are competing for shelf space with an actual agricultural product from a farmer in Texas.

      The producers who planned and organized the event were thrilled to see this article, and are happy that someone in wine writing has decided to help us educate consumers about an issue that is holding our industry back. That’s why everyone of us shared this article all over every social media platform we could. Hope this helps with understanding the Texas Monthly article better. Again, I’m going to stress the need for educating consumers, and the VIP session attendees are a little ahead of the curve, so we didn’t have to explain FSITO to them. However, the general public has no idea what FSITO means, and they need to. I’d like to thank Jessica and the TM staff for doing a great job on covering the Texas Wine Revolution. #realtexaswine