Wines and wineries from across Texas were among those from around the world that achieved Gold and Double Gold medals at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ 2023 Rodeo Uncorked!® International Wine Competition, held November 11-13 at NRG Center in Houston.
A Double Gold medal is awarded to entries that receive a Gold medal rating by all five members of the judging panel. The Rodeo Uncorked! handbook describes a Gold medal winner as a wine “of outstanding quality, superior to most. Reflects the best flavor, balance, style and winemaking for that class and price point.” A Double Gold is the most prestigious award a wine can receive in the first round at the Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition.
As one might guess, many classic and traditional-style Texas wines took away high marks from the competition. Becker Vineyards took away the title of Top Texas Wine for their 2019 Barbera, made from 100% Barbera grapes, a classic Italian varietal. However, many red and white blends also received Double Gold medals at the Houston competition. Many wine drinkers are less familiar with wine blends in new-world wine regions, including the United States, despite their history and presence in well-known European wine regions such as Bordeaux, France.
What can constitute a blend varies widely from state to state, depending on local laws and regulations. For a wine to be listed as a single varietal wine in Texas, it must contain more than 75% of that grape. As far as Texas winemakers go, more and more are blending their grapes to create their desired flavor profile. Blends often vary from year to year, depending on each season’s crop yield.
In the 2023 competition, Llano Estacado Winery, based in Lubbock, had the distinction of earning Double Gold medals for their 2021 Signature White (Chenin Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Viognier, Chardonnay, Orange Muscat, and 2% undefined) and 2021 Rosé (Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec with 1% Tannat, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, and Merlot, with 3% undefined), respectively. Both wines were also awarded the title of Class Champion and Texas Class Champion, meaning they stood above the pack of the rest of the wines in their assigned class, or category. Head winemaker Jason Centanni also serves as a judge for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.
Six Texas red blends earned Double Gold medals this year. Three out of the six come from Becker Vineyards: their 2018 GSM, 2019 Prairie Rotie (Mourvedre, Counoise, Cinsault, Grenache, and Petite Sirah), and 2018 Primavera Red (Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Barbera, and Cabernet Sauvignon) from La Quattro Stagione Vineyard. All three earned Texas Class Champion awards, with the GSM earning a Reserve Class Champion award and the Prairie Rotie and Primavera Red earning Class Champion awards. It’s no wonder that Becker Vineyards took home the title of Top All-Around Winery, awarded to the most decorated winery in the whole competition, along with their Top Texas Wine award.
While GSM, which stands for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, is a classic blend of grapes best known in the Southern Rhone of France, all the other wines vary by makeup widely. The remaining red blends are the Augusta Vin Winery Giovanna Rosso (Montepulciano, Sangiovese and approximately 5% mixed reds), Lost Draw Cellars Kindred Red Table Wine (Malbec, Tempranillo and Petit Sirah), and the 2018 Ron Yates Vineyards Amalgamation Red (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot), embracing the title of blend with its name.
While blends might not be for everyone, a skilled winemaker can make a blend sing just as sweetly as the purest Cabernets and Chardonnays. Blends combine the best aspects of multiple grapes, often creating a wine that is more complex or more in harmony than a single varietal. The next time you see a blend, consider the grapes that make up the wine, if they are listed. Wineries and brands are not required to put the blend of grapes on the bottle, but many will. If you see a combination of grapes that you like on their own, consider giving it a try.
The Rodeo Uncorked!® International Wine Competition, now in its 20th year, is one of the largest and most prestigious wine competitions in the country. For more information on this year’s winners click here or join the Rodeo Uncorked! Facebook group.