Cowboys, prairies, cattle, oil, and gas – that’s what Texas is associated with in the minds of most foreigners, and the Americans themselves. Few people know that Texas is one of the oldest wine regions in the United States. However, it is. The wine settled in Texas with the first Spanish missionaries who began cultivating vineyards in what is now El Paso on the Mexican border in the mid-seventeenth century. Gradually, winemaking moved inland and by the middle of the nineteenth century settled in central Texas, in the Texas Hill Country region near the state capital, Austin.
History of Texas winemaking
Texas winemaking in the second half of the nineteenth century was marked by the bright achievement of its main representative, breeder, and winemaker Thomas Madsen. Madsen managed to develop varieties of grapes that were resistant to the action of phylloxera or grape aphids. At the end of the nineteenth century, the phylloxera destroyed most of the famous vineyards of France and, only thanks to the varieties bred by Thomas Madsen in Texas, it was possible to save French winemaking from complete extinction.
The rapid development of Wineries in Texas was suddenly interrupted in 1919 with the adoption of the infamous Prohibition in the United States. Although the federal liquor law was repealed in 1933, Texas vintners still feel its impact. Rudiments of Prohibition remained in the legislatures of more than seventy counties and districts in Texas.
In the seventies of the twentieth century, Texas Wine began its new round of revival. The climate of central Texas is similar to that of southwestern Europe, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Grape varieties from these regions are most widely distributed in the Texas Hill Country, even though the historical roots of the majority of the population of this area come from Germany and Eastern Europe.
Winemaker from Texas
Texas Wineries is a young business, but people of all ages are engaged in it. Jim Johnson decided to start winemaking at the age of 48:
“All my life I have been doing what life and circumstances demanded of me,” says Jim. “And suddenly it turned out that I could quit everything and do what I really love.”
“Texans who become professional vintners usually don’t go home but stay on the West Coast, either California or Oregon or Washington State,” says Jim. – West Coast winemaking has long been a stable industry. Knowledgeable specialists are needed there, but it is quite difficult to break into independent winemakers there. I decided to return to Texas not because everything here is native and I know everything here. The main reason is that good grapes grow here, with bright, rich varieties. Our climate is more severe than in California, it is harder to work, but there are fewer specialists. Texas Wine Country is just beginning to develop, so there is still an opportunity to create your own small but sustainable enterprise.”
“In California, of course, the climate will be calmer, what to say? Let’s just say, the Mediterranean climate. In the five years that I lived there, I saw a thunderstorm a couple of times. With lightning. In such conditions, God himself ordered grapes to grow. And we rattle regularly. And it’s raining so hard it can flood. I’ve heard that in Georgia the climate is similar to California.”
According to Jim, the only way to break into a market filled with Californian wines is to create well-known and marketable brands of chardonnay, cabernet, and merlot. This is exactly what he did for the first few years of his independent division and is still doing it, but gradually begins to move away from the traditional market scheme. For example, Texas wine tasting is increasingly being held.