Friday, July 26, 2013

What is a Texas Wine? Part 1

That Wine You're Buying Is It Really A Texas Wine…Maybe Not!

Unfortunately a lot of consumers don’t know what determines if a wine is truly a Texas wine, which often leads to confusion in buying one. The universal definition of a wine's origin is that the wine follows the grape; it does not follow the winery. So here’s my most important Texas Wine Rule.

Just because a wine is made in Texas does not make it a Texas wine. 

If a wine is a Texas wine, 75% of the juice must come from Texas grapes. If they do then the wine will say Texas on the label. If the fruit comes from a particular county, wineries may put the county of origin instead of Texas on the label. Much like California wineries put the county where the grape is grown if the fruit comes from a particular county, such as Napa or Sonoma. 

The label may also say something like Texas Hill Country AVA (American Viticulture Area.) which means 85% of the grapes came from that AVA. A Texas winery may also put Estate Bottled on the label if 100% of the grapes come from vineyards they own and control. The winery and the vineyard must be in the same AVA and the winery must crush, ferment, finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process.

So if the label from a Texas winery doesn't have Texas or the name of a Texas County or the name of a designated Texas AVA on it or have Estate Bottled then it’s not a Texas wine! Got that? I know it’s confusing and that’s what some wineries are counting on.

In Texas the reason so many wineries use out of state grapes is that we have a shortage of Texas grapes. 

That’s right the great State of Texas has a shortage of wine grapes which means our grapes sell at a premium. While states like California often have a glut of grapes that they need to sell cheaply and in bulk. Unfortunately some Texas wineries hope that people don’t notice that their wines are not Texas wines and they often go out of their way to avoid the question.

Which brings me to the term “For Sale In Texas Only” that appears on the label of a lot of wines sold by Texas wineries.

The term really makes some Texas wine lovers mad! They’re often very explicit in their belief that it should not be on the bottles. But what does the term “For Sale In Texas Only” really mean. Well first of all, it does not mean the wine is special and can only be sold in Texas. In reality it’s just the opposite. Federal Regulations require wine labels to list the place of origin for the grapes used in the wine. 

But here’s the loophole, wineries can ask for an exemption from that labeling requirement if the wine is only for sale in their state. So when a winery puts “For Sale In Texas Only” they're trying to hide the fact that they're using out of state grapes. And often that statement is in small letters to make it difficult to find.

A wine made in Texas could technically have 74.9% of the grapes from Texas and not qualify as a Texas wine.

But in reality that’s not happening. Most wineries would rather have Texas on their label than “For Sale In Texas Only.” If they’re even close to having 75%  Texas juice they’d manage to get to 75% so the wine would qualify as a Texas wine. In fact most wines with “For Sale In Texas Only” on the label aren't even close to having 75% Texas grapes.        
So trust me on this, if the label has “For Sale In Texas Only” it’s basically not made from Texas grapes and it’s NOT A TEXAS WINE!  

Now that you know what the term means then use it to your advantage. Let the term “For sale In Texas Only’ be your Texas wine guide.  Look for it before you buy that bottle of “Texas” wine. And if it’s on the label, then move on if you truly want a Texas wine.

Luckily not all Texas wineries are trying to fool the consumer. The ones getting their fruit from respected California growers in regions like Paso Robles will often put those AVA on their bottles. And why not? Texas wineries could easily make California wines and clearly label them as California wine. They could even have a “California Collection” under a different label from their true Texas wines and it would be a win for both the winery and the Consumer.  

Hopefully as more wine grapes are grown in Texas more wineries will be able to move away from imported grapes, especially the cheaper bulk grapes that really don’t make great wines and hurt the industry.

But in the meantime smart consumers will know that the “For Sale In Texas Only” means it’s not a Texas wine.


The Neighborhood Wine Porch Party!




  1. Great article but I think one of your statements might be a little misleading. You said "But trust me on this, if the label has “For Sale In Texas Only” it’s not made from Texas grapes". Unless things have changed, according to the GO TEXAN website ( For Sale In Texas Only means "Between 25 percent and 74.9 percent of the wine is made with Texas grapes". So if that is still true, there could be Texas grapes in there, just not 75% worth.

    Keep up the great work and catch you sometime at a winery!

  2. Actually that is correct a wine made in Texas could technically have 74.9% of the grapes from Texas and not qualify as a Texas wine. But in reality that’s not happening. Wineries would rather have Texas on their label than “For Sale In Texas Only” so if they were at 74.9% Texas juice they’d manage to get the Texas juice to 75%. However I’ll look at wording the blog a little differently. So thanks for the correction. Cheers! Harold

  3. I've corrected the blog to take into account Jeff's comment. Again thanks Jeff for the input! Cheers!! Harold

  4. California requires that 100% of the grapes used to make a wine be from California to put California on the label. Hopefully as more and more wine grapes are grown in Texas we'll be able to have the same requirement. In the meantime support our Texas wineries and buy their wines if you like them. Just realize that many are not true Texas wines. Cheers! Harold