Cinco De Mayo Wine Pairings

A recent example of wine pairings that went well together is my company’s Cinco de Mayo party this past Wednesday. I’ve reviewed both of these wines before, so I won’t repeat myself in those regards, but I will link to those reviews in case you missed them.

2009 ranga.ranga Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

2009 ranga.ranga Sauvignon Blanc bottleWe celebrated the victory in battle of the Mexicans over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 by hucking an inflated rubber ball at a metal hoop. Appropriate, I know. We played next to a freshly cut lawn, the sweet, pungent scent of clipped grass still very prominent on a soft spring breeze. The temperature, just over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a light humidity, was enough to work up a quick sweat without being sweltering or oppressive. I mentioned in my review of the ranga.ranga that it “just smells and tastes like a summer party after a hard day of gardening and yardwork.” In this case, we got the experience without actually putting in the effort, which was doubly enjoyable.

The herbal, citrus-y, and grassy flavors in the Sauvignon Blanc matched perfectly. I’d take time away from the game to have a quick sip, and the brisk acidity and tart flavors were both cooling and refreshing. Though the complexity of the wine was lost, as I didn’t exactly have the focus or time to enjoy the finish, the flavors still functioned very well as a thirst-quencher.

It was almost too easy to just gulp it down instead of having a mere sip, and I might have had to refill my glass once or twice more than I otherwise should have. The high alcohol content also made me a lot more confident in my abilities, which hadn’t been adequately exercised since last April, and I found myself jacking up three-pointers that would even make “Zach Randolph, Point Guard” blush.

2008 Yellow + Blue Torrontes, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina

The other wine that we had for our Cinco De Mayo party was a pairing for the food, which was an old-fashioned shrimp boil. We had yellow and blue torrontes cartontwo pots going on, one with a garlic-seasoned brew and the other with a classic creole-style boil. The scents mingled together immaculately in the air around the picnic area, “forming up like Voltron,” to borrow a phrase from Rick Bakas.

On the review for this wine, I raved about the seafood pairing, creole flounder stuffed with shrimp, crab, and peppers. Obviously, this experience had a lot to do with why I brought this wine for the shrimp boil. The floral notes of the wine accented the spicy scents of the shrimp boil very well. Aside from the food, the Torrontes was still crisp and very cool, well suited to an outdoor spring party. The floral scents worked for the season as well.

While I spent a lot more time with the ranga.ranga than with the Yellow + Blue Torrontes that day, probably because I spent 2/3 of my time at the party playing basketball, I found both to be perfect for the conditions. If you plan on having an outdoor party before it gets too warm, especially one that will involve any kind of athletic activity, you can’t go wrong with a dry Marlborough-style Sauvignon Blanc. If you’re doing any kind of spicy cookout with a seafood or poultry theme, a South-American-style Torrontes will hit the spot.

My Brother’s Graduation Gift: His Very Own Blog Post

I bear no responsibility for the contents of this post. For my brother’s graduation gift, I’m giving him a wine tasting, and we’re going to transcribe the tasting. Since he HAS to make me play the straight man to his shenanigans, be prepared for an… unusual tasting.

Cast of Characters:

Josh – Heroic host of Wine(Explored). Self-Proclaimed Huguenot (whatever that is).

Zac – Recent graduate. Antagonist to Josh. Master of the French Horn.

Peanut Gallery – (S)He Who Shall Not Be Named

Peanut Gallery 2 – (S)He Who Shall Not Be Named 2

ACT I

Josh: We’re going to kick things off with a mystery glass.

Zac: *sniff* Well, for starters, it smells like wine.

Josh: …

Zac: *sips exaggeratedly from the glass, pinky in the air, winces* That’s rough.

Josh: That’s because it’s a $12 dollar box of wine. Now finish it off. We got good stuff to get to.

Zac: *finishes the tasting glass* Grimace. It tastes like something I tasted before. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s not good.

Segura Viudas Brut ReservaJosh: First up for the real tasting: Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava.

Zac: Talk about the classiness of the screw cap.

Josh: Well actually, you bring up a good point. Winemakers are moving towards using screw caps instead of regular corks because the seal is more dependable, and they’re not prone to becoming corked, which is where tainted corks infect the wine with a chemical contaminant.

Zac: Bottom-line. Screw cap? Classy.

Josh: Cheers to your graduation, good sir.

*clink*

Zac: *sips* I liked it, then I hated it, then I liked it again.

Peanut Gallery: Sounds like your last relationship.

Zac: Zing!

Peanut Gallery 2: Am I peanut gallery, too?

(editor’s note: nuff said)

Zac: *smells* It smells nicer than the last one.

Josh: If I asked you if you detected more orchard fruits, tropical fruits, or citrus fruits… what would you say?

Zac: I know I’m wrong, but I’m going with citrus.

Josh: You’re actually not wrong.

Zac: W’hell yeah.

Josh: Welcome back from Alabama, by the way. I got grapefruit and pineapple, though there’s some apple and vanilla as well.

Zac: *takes a big gulp* You know what would make this extra classy? Strawberries and s***.

Josh: Dear god. Moving on. What about the acidity?

Zac: Oh, it’s very acidic. It’s what lingers.

Josh: That’s the bitterness on the finish. You’re detecting the flavors of the acid after the fruit flavors fade away. Myself, since we do ratings on this blog, I’m going to say that it’s a very well balanced wine with a lingering finish. The flavors are simple but effective. For a $10 to $13 Cava, I’m giving it a 6 out of 10.

Zac: I’m giving it a 7 out of 10. Your 6 is bunk.

ACT II

Chateau Megyer Tokaji

Josh: All right, next up is the reason we’re all here. We’re opening a Tokaji. Specifically, Chateau Megyer’s 2003 Tokaji Aszu, 3 puttonyos.

Zac: What? That’s a lot of words.

Josh: Tokaji is a product of Hungary.

Zac: So it’s not Japanese?

Josh: No.

Zac: Clarify that it’s my college graduation. I don’t want police showing up at the door.

Josh: I think we’re okay here. Anyway, Tokaji is a heavily concentrated dessert wine. The number of puttonyos represents how sweet it is, as in how much botrytized grape juice has been fermented in it.

Peanut Gallery 2: (interrupts) Pour the wine! *pantomimes pouring something into a glass* Iocane powder!

Josh: Well played. Let’s hope someone gets that reference.

Peanut Gallery: Looks like a trucker bomb.

Zac: Looks like plum wine. I’ve had that, you know.

Peanut Gallery 2: For once, Zac is the classy one. *sniffs* smells like pineapple and patchouli.

Zac: *swirls glass* I’m swirling the glass. I’ve seen that on TV. *sips* I don’t like it.

Peanut Gallery: Give it a couple sips.

Zac: I was expecting it to be more cloying. That’s a real word, you know.

Josh: I know. The acidity is too high for it to be cloying, but yes, that is an issue that sweet wines often have. The flavors are very different compared to the typical wines.

Zac: It still sounds Japanese to me. *tastes again* The fumes linger in the mouth.

Peanut Gallery 2: It reminds me of an apple pie.

Josh: Allspice? It would because it has a basically orchard-fruit and allspice and a syrupy sweet flavor. That’s actually a very good way to put it.

Zac: I’m not a huge fan. I would not spend my money on it.

Peanut Gallery: It’s a very dessert-y wine.

Josh: I’m a big fan of it. It’s very complex and active, even though it’s got such a high sugar content. It has a very countryside kind of flavor to it, floral and fruity, and the alcohol and acidity are potent enough to keep it from collapsing on itself. I’d give a 6 out of 10.

Zac: Stingy.

Josh: For the price tag attached, $30, I think that’s pretty fair.

Zac: But you were just talking about how big of a fan you were, and how floral it was and whatnot, and then you give it a 6? Bunk! *pounds fist on table*

Josh: Fair enough. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

Zac: Yes SIR. I’ll give it a 5. I have to give it a grade too.

ACT III

Moscato D'Asti

Josh: Next up is the Sant’Evasio 2008 Moscato D’Asti.

Peanut Gallery 2: *sniffs* It smells like Sweden. What? I relate smells to places.

Zac: *sniffs* How the heck does it smell like Sweden? It doesn’t smell like socialism!

Josh: Actually, that’s pretty accurate descriptor. It has the aroma of evergreen and baking spices. It has some kind of a candy kind of smell as well…

Peanut Gallery 2: It smells like Christmas candy.

Josh: Yep, that’s it.

Zac: Still smells like wine, dude.

Josh: Allright… well, have a taste. Wait, Fruity Pebbles! That’s what it smells like.

Zac and Peanut Gallery 2: It does!

Zac: *sips* That doesn’t even taste like wine! That tastes like juice. This is what you think wine tastes like when you’re a child.

Josh: No, you’re absolutely right. It’s unusual for wine, but it has a very grape-y attack.

Peanut Gallery 2: Heh heh, grape-y attack.

Josh: Attack is what you call the first flavors that present themselves in a wine.

Zac: This is my favorite wine I’ve ever had. This is getting 10s, buddy. Wait, we’re not there yet.

Josh: There’s something a little bacterial about the flavor, and mixed with the potent fruit notes and incredible sweetness, it tastes like peach yogurt to me.

Peanut Gallery 2: But I don’t like peach yogurt. Maybe blueberry yogurt? *sips* …it DOES taste like peach yogurt!

Zac: I get the yogurty flavor because it tastes fermented but gently. It tastes like there was care with how that fermented flavor was introduced.

Josh: The acidity is great, especially compared to the considerable sweetness. It carries along on a long peach finish. With the great fruity, bready flavors and nose and fantastic balance, at $20 per bottle, I’m giving it a 7 out of 10.

Zac: 9. Out of 10. And the only reason I’m not giving it a 10 is I want to leave something better to search for.

ACT IV

Josh: Last up is the Shargren NV Sparkling Shiraz. After the two dessert wines and sparkling white, this might be a little jarring.

Zac: *sniffs* I smell red wine, which I’m never a fan of.

Josh: I think you might actually be surprised at the flavor you get from it. I’m smelling a very distinct lingonberry here.

Zac: *sip* Nope! Not a fan.

Peanut Gallery 2: It’s really bland. It smells and tastes like meat.

Josh: I can see where you’d get that. Some Shiraz has a tendency to exhibit a meaty-like aroma. It also has a spicy red wine marinade kind of quality to it. Acidity is a bit high, and it’s got a heavy red-fruit flavor. I actually kind of like it. Real quick. Snap rating?

Zac: For a red? 6… as far as how much I liked it and how much I’d drink it again? 2.

Josh: I’d probably give it a 5 out of 10. It’s fairly bland, I agree, and there’s not too much to the flavor, but for how bad a $10 Shiraz CAN go, it’s got some good character to it. Zac?

–END OF TRANSMISSION– (Zac wandered off, distracted by strawberry pie and Chelsea Hightower on Dancing with the Stars)

How Virginia Does It: Viognier from the Piedmont

The Back Story:

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a Virginia wine. Through no fault of my own, I’ve recently turned my attentions east, towards the Tokajis, Grüner Vetliners, and Gewürztraminers of the world. It wasn’t too long, though, before my attention wandered back to local fare. Thus, I picked up a Virginia wine on one of my recent wine shopping trips: The Horton Vineyards 2008 Tower Series Viognier.

Because what actually happened was rather dull, allow me to utilize the age-old writer’s device known as creative embellishment, and to point out that the unnamed wine shop villainized as such below is decidedly not evil in real life:

*cue the string quartet*

Scene: Caroline of the North Empire’s Wine Fortress. Year unknown.

Our hero, the wine explorer, nameless, approaches the imposing storefront. Glowing, blood-red letters embellished with a cluster of insidious grapes materialize in the air before the building, swelling a lump in his throat and beating him down to his knees. Give in, give in. The unreadable glyphs pierce his mind, forcing him to gaze into them one by one, each one sapping more of his energy.

He wrenches free of their hold, rolling to his feet as a terrible shriek cuts through the air around him. He sprints towards the only entryway, two glass portals framed by bars of pulsing obsidian. As he nears them, he throws his hands forward and snaps them apart, splitting the doors and sliding them in either direction as he tumbles through the doorway. Just before a sentry turns his way, the explorer rolls behind a stand of wine, the bottles rattling as he brushes by them.

Peeking around the corner, our intrepid hero spies multiple sentries throughout the area. He studies them carefully, seeking any kind of weakness that he can exploit. He notices several denizens unlike them, lacking uniforms, shambling throughout the aisles, collecting various corked bottles stored on racks on the walls. The sentries indicate which bottles are acceptable to remove, and if a denizen selects incorrectly, the sentry uses an overwhelming aura, what they call “snobbery,” to break their spirit and mold them into proper servants. All the hero has to do, he thinks, is shamble forth and submit to the sentries when spotted. So long as he didn’t let on his true target, the 3-liter casks of wine strategically placed far, far away from the Châteauneuf du Pape, he should be able to complete his quest.

Mere seconds after he rises from his crouch, he is approached by a sentry.

“Why have you entered our domain?” The sentry begins to emanate his oppressive aura, prepared to batter the explorer’s intelligence and willpower with a sickly wave of snobbery. Unprepared for such an encounter, the explorer grasps at the first diversion he can find.

“I seek the ambrosia of Greek Moschofilero.” The explorer hopes the obscurity of such a treasure would satisfy the sentry’s inclinations and suppositions. The sentry begins to tremble with anger, and the explorer worries he may have overreached in his estimation of the varietal. As the explorer considers his escape and steels his mind for a painful onslaught of magic hidden in thinly-disguised invective, the sentry slumps, the wave of snobbery all but vanishing around him.

“We have failed to procure most of such treasure, though the meager stores we have exist to the far west, there.” The sentry points towards one corner of the room and then hurries away, warming up his aura to exact his anger upon an unsuspecting denizen in the zone of Italian reds. As our explorer watches, horrified, the sentry grabs the denizen and flings her across the room where she lands in a wooden chair bolted to the floor. The sentry straps her legs and arms and turns on the TV in front of her. Sideways is on loop.

The explorer dashes in the direction the sentry had pointed, rounding the corner and swiping a bottle of the ambrosia as cover. Just around the corner, he senses, are the casks, his true goal, also stuffed in this forgotten corner. He approaches the wall of casks with caution, ensuring no sentries are in sight as he begins his cautious approach towards the musty shelves of casks. There are so many! He stands in awe of the vast array of casks, trying to discern which the most potent of them all. He only has room for two, and he had not expected such a selection. He wonders briefly why creatures such as these sentries, who reviled these casks so, would continue to stockpile them in such great quantities, but his musings are cut short as one rounded the corner. In his haste, he stuffs two casks that seemed most likely to hold the liquid he sought into his satchel and moves onward to the next zone. He finds himself face to face with shelves of wine from his homeland, Virginia.

A compunction to liberate one overwhelms his senses, and just before the sentry can approach him, he swipes a golden bottle from the shelf and sinks softly into the shadows. In his search for a single legendary cask of wine, he had collected four different containers, each one glowing brightly with the promise of invaluable treasure. He is amazed at how easily and quickly he had gotten them. Escape, he thought glumly, will be a whole other matter. What will it cost to get these home?

Fin

The Results:

Horton Vineyards Viognier in glass and bottleThe appearance of the wine is an extremely light straw. When I say light, I mean the wine is almost clear. The color in that glass is almost entirely from the light in the oven behind it. The swirl suggests a creamy texture and a very high viscosity.

The nose of the wine is pungent and palatable. Floral and tropical notes combine for a very exotic, perfume-y scent. There are hints of mango and banana that jump out, and a honeyed, slightly musty odor lingers on the nose.

The mouth feel of the wine is as the swirl suggested. It was very creamy, with an extremely active acidity and effervescence that gave it a tingly, tangy consistency similar to a Frizzante.

The flavor of the wine was rather unlike a typical Viognier. It was very dry and extremely complex, full-bodied and refreshing. The attack was both floral and citrusy with a toasty undertone, followed by strong mineral and honey flavors. The finish was rather long with subtle mango and peach flavors coming through the minerality. at 13.8% alc, there was no suggestion of the alcohol in the flavor. It was an all-around harmonious wine.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a fantastic summer sipper. It’s aggressive, full-bodied, and refreshing. There’s some sugar in this wine, but the acidity and alcohol are so high that it manages to be crisp even though it has a thick texture. This is one of those wines that you want to experience on its own: take a sip, close your eyes, and enjoy the flavors and sensations as they wash over your tongue. If you had to pair it, I would suggest a lighter seafood or pasta meal. This wine would not handle tomatoes, spiciness, or red meat well at all.

Conclusion:

Though I wasn’t expecting this style of wine at all from this region and this grape, I was thoroughly impressed by it. It’s well worth the $20 price tag. And seriously, are you gonna turn down a bottle that beautiful? 7/10

(Don’t) Spin the Wheel: Nostalgic Music Wine Pairings

This week I overrode the randomizer and chose two songs myself as a way to reacquaint myself (and acquaint you all) with two bands that I’ve spent some time away from. The first, Atom and His Package, I haven’t listened to at all since high school. The second, The Besnard Lakes, I’ve only listened to sporadically since last summer. Shame on me on both counts.

Atom and His Package – I Am Downright Amazed at What I Can Destroy with Just a Hammer

This song is one that you listen to and just grin the whole time. The lyrics are absurd, chronicling a trio of college-age kids who buy a fixer-upper and realize only one of them knows how to repair things while another is marginally useful. The other one, bored with the process and with being utterly unhelpful, roams about the house indulging in destructive fantasies with his trusty hammer.

The instrumentation for this song is all provided by Atom (Adam Goren), who plays a guitar and a synthesizer, and his “Package,” a sequencer, a hardware music device that allows him to play multiple recorded or generated instrument sequences simultaneously while focusing on his live guitar-work and keyboarding. He snaps back and forth between chorus and verse with nary a pause in some sort of ADD stream-of-consciousness flood, the synthesizer barely keeping up with the manic output. The synth drums maintain a ridiculously quick 4/4 time signature, sounding more like an overexcited metronome than an actual instrument.

This song is giddy, simple, and short. It seems to me like it would pair very well with a late harvest Riesling. A late harvest Riesling stands well on its own, is enjoyable by even casual drinkers, and works when you don’t want a wine that commands focus and attention. The flavors are generally safe, harmonious flavors that match the higher sweetness and acidity levels: floral, light fruits, minerals. It’s almost syrupy sweet, though just acidic enough to give the wine some depth. Atom and His Package is assuredly irreverent, but there is enough substance, social and political commentary, there to keep it from being overindulgent nonsense.

Other songs by Atom and His Package include “The Palestinians Are Not The Same Thing As The Rebel Alliance, Jackass,” “(Lord It’s Hard to Be Happy When You’re Not) Using the Metric System,” and “People In This Computer Lab Should Shut the Hell Up.” If you need a good dose of angry, harmless, funny, nerdy punk, well, I think you’ve pigeon-holed yourself very nicely. Enjoy!

The Besnard Lakes – And You Lied to Me

Wine first. Considering I’ve only had dry Tokaji before, it would be dishonest of me to pair this with an Aszu. That’s fine, because I think a dry Tokaji goes very nicely with this music. Its acidity and residual sugar, though both generally fairly standard at around 6.5 g/l, are paired with a higher alcohol level (typically 14% and up). Higher alcohol, within reason, tends to enhance the flavors inherent in a wine, so long as the acidity and sugar aren’t overwhelmed.

Everything about a good Tokaji would be described as sumptuous. The acidity is very active, providing a nuanced mouth feel that I would liken to the feeling of ball bearings rolling across skin. The sugar and alcohol balances with the acidity well, giving the wine a very full, sensual flavor. The complexities in this wine persist through a long finish, many different aspects of fruits, minerals, and herbs constantly jostling for attention. The wine is simply chill-inducing.

Chill-inducing describes this song perfectly. There are few bands that warrant headphones, closed eyes, and focused listening. For me, The Besnard Lakes always command that dedication of my time. This song in particular makes me stop and listen no matter what I’m doing at the time.

The ominous vocals, sung both solo by Jace Lasek (also the guitarist and keyboardist) and in chants with his wife Olga Goreas (also the bassist), cast a surreal pall over the ornate instrumentation, pumping wave after wave of distraught emotion into the rising, triumphant guitar riffs to maintain a continual dissonance, a sense of unease. They fill empty spaces between verses with subdued distortion and wavering vocal harmonies, barely holding the song together and making the anticipation for each resurgence palpable. Like a dry Tokaji, the sweetness is tempered by a subtle mordancy; the song embraces dichotomy.

And, like any good wine, the complexity persists through a long finish. Generally, after the final verse of a song, a repetition of the verse or chorus riff or a guitar solo ends abruptly or fades out. The Besnard Lakes instead begin a second guitarist’s distorted guitar interlude before the final repetition of the chorus, replacing the chorus riff. As the chorus ends, another guitar solo begins, with a third guitarist and guitar bringing in a cleaner, slower sound. The original guitarist, Lasek, playing a subdued version of the chorus riff underneath of the solos, suddenly comes forward with a hammer-on solo as the third guitarist fades away, providing the most complex guitar-work seen thus far before one final choral riff finishes the song.

I would have a hard time finding a more appropriate metaphor for the progression of the flavors of wine from the attack to the mid-palate to the finish than this song.

The 2010 Texas – Virginia Wine Summit Part 4: Eye on the Future

Looking for the rest of our series? You can find it here:
Part 1: The Dawn of Cooperation – opening arguments of Texas vs. Virginia on Vinotology
Part 2: The Great Tasting – the Texas / Virginia wine swap on Wine(Explored)
Part 3: Independent Research – Texas hyping up Virginia and vice-versa on Vinotology

Chairman: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have reached the finale of the 2010 Texas / Virginia Wine Summit. So far we’ve made cases for each on the basis of history, provided wines, and independent research. Today, we ask our participants to make a case for the futures of their respective states’ wine industries. We’ll begin with the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Joshua Sweeney of Wine(Explored).

Josh: Thank you, Chairman. I would like to begin my statement with a few eye-opening stats. First, I would like to highlight the rapid growth of wineries in Virginia. We had only 64 registered wineries in 2000. As of this year, there are over 160 wineries, and they’re opening at an average of two a month. We currently have 260 independent vineyards farming over 2400 acres of land dedicated to growing the grape.

Virginia Wine Is for Lovers

Second, if I asked you to estimate where Virginia fell in terms of total volume of wine produced in the US, what would you guess? 5th, 6th? As much noise as Virginia is making in the wine scene, in 2008, we were merely the 9th highest producer of wine with 3.7 million liters, or a little under 1 million gallons, crushed from Virginia grapes. Surprisingly enough, Ohio, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Florida produced more wine, while North Carolina was narrowly edged out at 3.5 million liters. Virginia is making noise in the industry while producing .17% as much wine as California, 3.46% as much as New York, 4.84% as much Washington state, and 23.72% as much as Oregon.

Also, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Virginia has approximately 8.5 million acres of farmable land. Viticulture currently occupies roughly .028% of Virginia’s farmable land. To put it another way, for every acre of vines planted, there are 7000 acres of other farmable land. Industry saturation is not an issue in Virginia.

These facts point to a few important conclusions in my mind: The lack of total production combined with a growing reputation in the country suggests an overall high quality of wines being grown, and wine-makers are quickly figuring this out. And it’s not some specialized grape that’s found its niche here; traditional varietals are making an appearance. Our top four varietals produced in 2009 were Chardonnay (18.4% of total volume), Cabernet Franc (13.2%), Merlot (11.8%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (7.5%).

Other white varietals that vintners are having success with in Virginia include Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Viognier, Vidal Blanc and Petit Manseng. Red varietals becoming popular in the area include Norton, Petit Verdot, and Chambourcin. Petit Manseng and Chambourcin especially are developing into regional specialties.

Because of the popularity of our most commonly produced varietals and the development of a few marketable specialties, our growth potential, and the rate of new wineries opening in the state, we could very well see our output beginning to match our reputation and triple by 2020. While I don’t currently foresee us taking over Oregon by then, at the very least we should be able to close the gap in total production by at least half. At the very least, the future is looking very bright for the wine industry in my state.

Chairman: Thank you, Virginia. We will now hear from the honorable gentleman of Texas, Ben Simons of Vinotology.

Texas Wine Resources

Handy resources at gotexanwine.org

Ben: Thank you Mr. Chairman.  It has been a pleasure to be able to participate in this event and to represent my state before you all.  Both of the great states represented in this event have demonstrated that they deserve to be thought of as of quality wine regions.  We have tasted some great wines, and have learned much about each state.  Today I would like to talk about the Texas wine industry, past, present, and future.

Like my colleague’s home state of Virginia, Texas also has experienced rapid growth in the number of wineries around the state.  As recently as 2003 there were only 54 wineries in the state, but that number has ballooned to over 160 wineries today.  There are roughly 3600 acres of wine grapes planted in Texas right now, which is not nearly enough acreage to produce the grapes for the wineries operating in the state.  This is both a curse and an opportunity.  The fact that Texas is producing an ever increasing amount of wine, while still having to import so much fruit, seems to indicate that there is a good deal of growth potential in both the quantity and quality of Texas wines.  Currently Texas is producing roughly 2 million gallons of wine a year, but less than 500,000 gallons are made from Texas fruit.

For most of the history of the Texas wine industry, French Bordeaux varieties have dominated the wine production in Texas, with Cabernet Sauvignon making up nearly 25% of the grape production, followed by Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Merlot.  In recent years there has been a growth in the production of more Mediterranean varieties, such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Rhone varieties like Syrah, Mourvedre, and Viognier.  The challenges of the Texas growing season have lead many growers to seek out varieties more amenable to our conditions.  The result is a Texas wine industry that shows the potential to differentiate itself with some unique varieties.

Much of the wine being produced in Texas is also being consumed in Texas.  Texas consumers seem to be increasingly interested in the new varieties that are becoming more common in the state.  With the shortages in grape production that Texas faces, the likelihood of Texas wine being distributed out of state is very slim.  The single factor that will most impact Texas’ ability to become recognized as a premier wine producing region is probably grape production.  Unless more acreage is planted in grapes, thereby leading to more genuine Texas wines, Texas will not be able to develop a reputation on a national stage.  Given the wines that I have presented, I feel confident in saying that an increase in production could easily send Texas into the list of elite wine producing states.  Texas has only been seriously producing wine for the last 30 years, and the industry has come a long way in that time.  One thing seems to be clear, the best days of the Texas wine industry are still ahead of us.  Thank you.

Chairman: We’ve now reached the end of our summit. I would like to thank both participants for taking much time in the recent weeks to advocate for their respective states. It has been grueling, taxing, even bloody. Incidentally, we hope that the stenographer recovers from his nasty fall. But I digress. The chamber has reached a verdict. In my humble opinion, the state that has secured the right to be come the next big wine region is…

—END TRANSCRIPT—

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