Texas Wine Industry Considers Identifying Best of the Bunch

Categories: Texas Tipples

Texas wine enthusiasts seeking a better way to convey to consumers which local wines deserve their attentions are broaching the possibility of creating a wine quality program.

Russ Kane, a wine writer who's moderating a panel on wine quality at this week's Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association conference in San Marcos, describes the program as "something that would demonstrate the wine has been evaluated and deemed a quality wine."

In other new wine-growing regions, such as Ohio, wines made with primarily state-grown grapes are eligible to apply for a "quality wine" designation. Wines which pass sensory evaluation and chemical analysis tests can be sold with official "Ohio Quality Wine" seals.

A similar program was first explored in Texas in 2003, but Kane hopes to reignite excitement for the concept.

"Whether we get wineries to support it is why we're having the panel," Kane explains.

Since a wine quality program was first proposed, state enologist Mike Sipowitz has started consulting with wineries, offering free, confidential advice to winemakers. Kane believes his approach could provide the foundation for a consumer-oriented wine quality program.

Kane emphasizes any such program would be voluntary.

"You know how Texans are," he adds.

In addition to discussing a wine quality program, the eight-person panel will also take on the issue of improving Texas wines. Awarding seals is an "end result," Kane says, of better education and communication throughout the industry. The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has been working on both fronts, but Kane worries the state budget crunch could endanger those efforts.

"AgriLife is a relatively new support service, but it's proven to be phenomenal," Kane says. "I'm just crossing my fingers that sanity will prevail and legislators will look on both sides of the ledger."

The AgriLife Extension Service's wine programming costs the state about $4.3 million every two years. According to Kane, the state wine industry's worth $1.7 billion annually, and is continuing to grow.

"We're at a crux right now," he says. "We're making some changes, we're making improvements, yet we still have to work on making them better."

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Texas CEU
Texas CEU

This wine quality program for Texan wines sounds fascinating.  I wonder what kind of results Ohio has seen?

Rick Schofield
Rick Schofield

Half of the officially approved wines of Europe (PDO, AOC, DOC, etc ) suck.

Are you willing to alienate half of your Texas wineries? People have to make a living. The market will sort itself out.

If people with bad or inexperienced taste buds, like a lousy wine, they should be able to continue to enjoy it without an inferiority complex due to their wine not earning a sticker.

Why rate or approve wines? Do you rate women? Pizzas? Ice Cream?

Do you encougage Onion growers to work closer together? Painting contracters? That is their business.

Which government agency is telling you what wines are quality wines?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no panel and no agency should be wasting their time on subjective reviews. Consumer Reports has already demonstrated that they should not be rating wines. You have gold medals from "competitions" going to Barefoot at county fairs. Parker and the Spectator can be 20 points apart.

The importance of wine approval is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

I agree with Titus, but I know Texas is making some very good wine.

How would I know without tasting first? By the same way you select a New York wine: by reading, by the reputation of the producer, the report on the vintage, by consulting the store staff, by asking questions of the waiter, by reading the label, taking a chance on the package appearance, etc.

Rick SchofieldPort Ewen, NY

Russ Kane
Russ Kane

The panel will discuss methods to enhance wine quality by encouraging growers and wineries to work closer together. This is a challenge because of the large size of the state. We are learning how to adapt procedures done in other regions to the specifics of Texas. Also, discussions are being fired up again on a program to evaluate Texas wines to identify wines that meet specific quality requirements. This will be an independently operated activity (not affiliated with wineries) with wine sensory evaluated and analyzed on a confidential basis with a suitable designation provided those wines that meet the requirements. It can't be any more clear and unbiased as that. I still think that this is a better process than having a government agency tell us what wines are quality wines.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

"Best" is to "Texas wine" as "best-smelling" is to "ass." Don't care how you spin it, I still ain't sniffing. And the fact that it will be a voluntary program just makes it even more pointless and absurd. Essentially, you'll pay a fee to get a seal that shows you paid a fee.

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