You wanted the facts and we have a Texas-sized amount of facts for you here. Scroll down to learn about Texas Red Varietals, Texas White Varietals, How to Taste Wine, How to Buy Texas Wines, Decoding the Wine Label, How Wine is Made, Vintage Terms, Wine Tasting Terms and The Wine Growing Regions of Texas (or, for your convenience, click on one of the links above and jump straight to that section).
Texas Red Varietals
Complex, tannin-laden red with lush flavors of plums, berries and spice. Pair with beef dishes, turkey and hearty stews.
Lush, smoky red with a hint of vanilla and rich, dark fruits. Pair with pizza, cabrito and tamales.
Smokey red with soft tannins, toasted oak, berries and plums. Pair with beef stew, grilled meats, pizza and wild game.
Smooth-textured red varietal spiced with wild raspberries and licorice. Pair with beef, pork, pasta dishes and cheese.
Full-bodied, bold and fruity red bursting with berries and spice. Pair with BBQ, red pasta sauce and pizza.
Medium-to-full bodied red with a subtle, herbaceous flavor and soft tannins. Pair with meatloaf, grilled tuna and eggplant parmesan.
Complex, hearty red with bold flavors of cherry, cedar and chocolate. Pair with rack of lamb, T-bone steak and wild game.
Rich, smooth red with delicate notes of black cherries and cloves. Pair with duck, salmon and turkey.
Deep, dark red with notes of raspberry, cinnamon, cherry-chocolate, clove and brown sugar. Pair with raspberries and chocolate, as well as duck, venison and brisket.
Texas White Varietals
Clean, crisp, well-balanced white with big flavors of citrus and oak. Pair oak-aged with light beef with cream sauces or smoked chicken; unoaked with lobster and veal.
Blanc du Bois
Light, fresh-finished white with notes of grapefruit and apples. Pair with fish with lemon butter sauce, pasta Alfredo and pineapple chicken.
Creamy, slightly perfumed white with rich color and a fresh palate. Pair with TexMex, gulf fried shrimp and oysters.
Intense, slightly spicy white with notes of floral, peach and apricot. Pair with lettuce wraps (Chinese), white fish with mango salsa and paella.
Crisp, unobtrusive white accented by rich, fruit flavors and a floral bouquet. Pair with Indian cuisine, Greek salad and Jamaican pork.
Silky smooth white with floral, grassy and delicate herbal properties. Pair with fish, shrimp, cream soups and veggies.
Delicate, floral white with a dry, well-balanced finish. Pair with cheese crepes, quiche and Waldorf salad.
Fruity, sweet white with notes of gooseberry and orange peel. Pair with ice cream, dark chocolate and smoked salmon.
Light, fragrant white accented by coriander, peach and citrus flavors. Pair with fish, pasta, raw vegetables and soups.
Fresh, fruity white retaining the zesty flavors of the grape. Pair with chocolate, fresh fruit, fish and pasta.
Full-bodied, pungent white characterized by fruity, nutty flavors. Pair with BBQ, sushi and blackened fish.
Bold and oaky, this sweet white carries hints of honey and figs. Pair with fried catfish, olive tapenade and fried chicken, as well as blue cheese or crème brûlèe.
How to Taste Wine
Wine tasting is a time-honored art anyone can enjoy. Enrich your satisfaction with these easy and entertaining steps.
Seeing the Wine
Look at the wine in a glass. Pay attention to color (Is it red? Or more maroon?) and clarity.
Tilt the glass and swirl.
Is it clear or cloudy? Any sediment or bits of floating cork?
Remember, an older red is more translucent, a younger red is opaque.
Smelling the Wine
Smell the wine. Gently swirl the glass to release the bouquet. Stick your nose into the glass and inhale. Notice the complex aromas. Is it floral? Fruity? Oaky? A pleasing bouquet is a wonderful indication of a good wine.
Tasting the Wine
Take a small sip and roll it around on your tongue, then take a quick breath and mix the wine with air. Did the flavors open up? Reds often have an oaky or berry flavor. Whites are more likely fruity or floral.
How does the wine finish? Does the flavor linger or pass quickly? Consider the texture--is it light-bodied like water, or full-bodied like milk. Your evaluation of the wine depends on your personal taste, but this technique gives you the best overall reflection of the wine’s elements.
How to Buy Texas Wines
Buying a Texas wine is as easy as following the “Three P’s”
Quality Texas wines are available in every price range, so choose a bottle that is as pleasing to your pocketbook as it is to your palate.
Taste is a personal thing and you’ll establish your own preferences as you become familiar with a variety of wines. But for a party or dinner, there are guests preferences to consider. For experienced wine enthusiasts, a full-bodied cabernet or syrah might be a wonderful selection. But for those new to wine, the safer choice is a good merlot, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc or muscat.
The selection process might be easier if you’re looking for something to pair with dinner. The general rule is whites with poultry, fish and highly-flavored foods. Choose reds for beef, game dishes and heavier meals. And for dessert, choose a wine that’s sweeter than the dish to be served (Port or Riesling are excellent choices.) Remember, rules were made to be broken. The only important rule is that you choose a Texas wine that you enjoy.
Decoding the Wine Label
A wine label can be daunting. Follow this guide to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of your next wine selection.
The facility (often a brand name) that produced the wine.
The place where the dominant grapes used in the wine were grown. At least 75 percent of the wine is produced from grapes grown in the place named. If a Texas vineyard is named, 100 percent of the wine came from grapes grown on that vineyard.
At least 75 percent of the wine is produced from grapes grown in Texas.
Wines with a Texas vineyard mean 100 percent of the wine came from grapes grown on this vineyard.
For Sale in Texas Only
The wine is exempt from federal label requirements and cannot be introduced into interstate or foreign commerce. It often means that less than 75 percent of the wine was made using grapes from Texas or some other specific appellation.
Less than 25 percent of the wine is made with Texas grapes.
At least 85 percent of the wine was produced with grapes from that American Viticultural Area (AVA), a grape-growing region distinguished by geographical features.
The year the grapes used in the wine were harvested.
The kind of grapes that were used in the making of the wine.
Indicates the wine was made from grapes harvested on their own vineyard.
How Wine Is Made
The winemaking process includes a few simple steps and a lot of skill. Here are the basics.
Grapes are picked from the vineyard.
The grapes are examined for quality and ripeness and the best are chosen for wine production.
A mechanized process of removing the stems and crushing the juice from the fruit.
A tank process where the concoction is allowed to ferment.
A formulaic process of mixing grapes and flavors to create a particular taste.
Wood barrels are commonly used to age wine for a period of months or years, maximizing the flavor.
Wine has its own language. This glossary provides a brief description of common wine terms.
The addition of acid (usually tartaric during fermentation, frequently necessary in hot climates where grapes tend to over-ripen and become deficient in acidity, thereby losing freshness.
The acids in a wine (principally tartaric, malic, citric and lactic) provide liveliness, longevity and balance: too much leaves a sour or sharp taste on the palate, while too little results in a flabby, shapeless wine. If tannin is the spine of a wine, then acidity is its nervous system.
Barrel or Cask
Most of the world’s greatest wines are at least partially aged in barrels, usually made from oak. A barrique is the standard Bordeaux barrel, holding 225 liters or the equivalent of about 300 bottles of wine. But casks may be as large as 100 hectoliters (i.e., 10,000 liters) or more.
The addition of sugar during fermentation to increase a wine’s alcoholic strength.
The conversion of grape juice into wine through the action of yeasts present in the juice, which turn sugar into alcohol. This alcoholic fermentation is also known as primary fermentation. (See Malolactic Fermentation.)
A method of clarifying and stabilizing wine to give it a pleasingly lucid color and to remove yeasts, bacteria or other solid matter that might otherwise spoil the wine after its has been bottled. Excessive filtration, like excessive fining, can strip a wine of aroma, body, texture and length.
A method of clarifying wine by pouring a coagulant (such as egg whites) on top and letting it settle to the bottom. In general, a fining agent is allowed to fall through the wine, while in filtration, the wine is passed through a filter.
Solid residue (mostly dead yeast cells and grape pulp, pips and skins) that remains in the cask after the wine has been drawn off. Many white wines and some reds are kept on their lees for a period of time to protect them from oxidation, enrich their textures and add complexity. Wines protected by lees contact can often be made with less sulfur addition, but careful technique is essential to ensure that off aromas don’t develop.
A secondary fermentation in which the more tart malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid and carbon dioxide. Malolactic fermentation, which generally follows the alcoholic fermentation, is nearly always carried out in red wines. Some producers of white wines encourage malolactic fermentation, while others, especially those in hot regions that produce grapes with low levels of acidity, avoid it in order to retain the wine’s freshness.
Grape juice not yet fermented or in the process of being fermented into wine.
Transferring the wine from one cask to another to separate it from the lees.
Solid matter deposited in a bottle during the course of the maturation process. Sediment is generally a sign that the wine was not excessively filtered prior to bottling.
The most common disinfectant for wine. Most winemakers feel that it is nearly impossible to produce stable wine without judicious use of sulfur products at one or more stages of vinification: just after the harvest to thwart fermentation by the wrong yeasts, in the cellar to prevent microbial spoilage and oxidation and at the time of bottling to protect the wine against exposure to air. But as a general rule, the amount of sulfur used in the production of fine wine has never been lower than it is today.
A bitter, mouth-drying substance found in the skins. Stalks and pips of the grapes – as well as in wood barrels. Tannin acts as a preservative and is thus an important component if the wine is to be aged over a long period. Tannins are frequently harsh in a young wine, but gradually soften or dissipate as the wine ages in the bottle.
The various microorganisms that cause fermentation. Wild yeasts are naturally present on grape skins, but cultivated yeasts are generally used to control fermentation more carefully.
Wine Tasting Terms
The flavor that lingers in your mouth after you swallow the wine. The length of the aftertaste is perhaps the single most reliable indicator of wine quality (see Finish).
The primary smell of a young, unevolved wine, consisting of the odors of the grape juice itself, of the fermentation process, and, if relevant, of the oak barrels in which the wine was made or aged.
Having mouthpuckering tannins; such wines may merely need time to soften.
Tough, dry and unforthcoming, often due to a severe tannic structure or simply to the extreme youth of a wine.
The ratio of a wine’s key components, including fruitiness, sweetness, acidity, tannin and alcoholic strength. A balanced wine shows a harmony of components, with no single element dominating.
The weight of a wine on the palate, determined by its alcoholic strength and level of extract (see Extract). Wines are typically described as ranging from light-bodied to full-bodied.
The richer, more complex fragrances that develop as a wine ages.
Not especially aromatic, most likely due to recent bottling or to the particular stage of the wine’s development. Dumb is a synonym.
Contaminated by a tainted cork (caused by a chemical compound known as 2,4,6-trichloroanisole and released by certain molds), which gives the wine a musty, wet cardboard smell. Bad corks are a major problem, as they can ruin otherwise sound bottles. By most accounts 2 to 5 bottles out of 100 are affected by bad corks.
Refreshing, thanks to sound acidity.
Can be a component of complexity deriving from the wine’s distinctive soil character or a pejorative description for a rustic wine.
Essentially the minerals and other trace elements in a wine; sugar-free dry extract is everything in a wine except water, sugar, acids and alcohol. High extract often gives wine a dusty, tactile impression of density. It frequently serves to buffer, or mitigate, high alcohol or strong acidity.
Rich to the point of being unctuous, with modest balancing acidity.
The final taste left by a sip of wine after you swallow. Wines can be said to have long or short finishes (see Aftertaste).
Perceptibly tannic and/or acidic, in a positive way.
Lacking acidity and therefore lacking shape.
Aromas and flavors that derive from the grape, as opposed to the winemaking process or the barrels in which the wine was aged.
Too acid, raw or herbal; this may be due to under ripe grapes or stems but may simply mean the wine needs time to develop.
An emphatically firm, tactile finish.
Too tannic or acidic; often a characteristic of a wine that needs more time in bottle.
Slightly cooked flavors of jam rather than fresh fruit, often a characteristic of red wines from hot climates.
Lacking flesh and body. Not necessarily pejorative, as some types of wines are lean by nature.
Literally, the part of the tasting experience between the nose of the wine and its finish. The impact of a wine in the mouth.
The physical impression of a wine in the mouth; its texture.
The aroma or bouquet.
Smell or taste of the oak cask in which the wine was vinified and/or aged; oak notes can include such element as vanilla, clove, cinnamon, cedar, smoke toast, bourbon and coffee.
Possessing a tired or stale taste due to excessive exposure to air. An oxidized white wine may have a darker than normal or even brown color.
Generally high in alcohol and/or extract.
Unpleasantly bitter or hard-edged.
Low in tannin and/or acidity.
The faint prickle on the tongue of carbon dioxide (petillance in French), generally found in young, light white wines.
An almost metallic taste often noted in wines high in acidity and/or made from mineral-rich soil-especially Riesling.
Round and smooth, as opposed to noticeably tannic or acidic.
A term applied not just to wines with significant residue sugar but also to those that show outstanding richness or ripeness.
Generally, a red wine that shows excessive tannin.
Literally wine-like, in terms of liveliness and acidity; but often used to describe the overall impression conveyed by a wine beyond simple fruitiness. This can include subtle flavors that come from the soil that produced the grapes, as well as from the winemaking and aging process.
Slightly vinegary due to a high level of acetic acid, referred to as volatile acidity (VA). But a minimum level of VA often helps to protect a wine’s aromas without resulting in an unstable bottle. “High-toned” is jargon for faintly volatile, and is not necessarily pejorative.
The Wine Growing Regions of Texas
Eight federally approved Viticultural Areas currently exist in Texas. Eighty-five percent of wine from a Viticultural Area must be made from grapes grown within the area's boundaries. If the wine is a varietal, 75 percent of that wine must be made from the designated grape variety.
The Bell Mountain Viticultural Area
Established in 1986, this appellation was the first in Texas. It covers roughly five square miles on the south and southwestern slopes of Bell Mountain in northeast Gillespie County, about 15 miles north of Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country Viticultural Area
Some 110 square miles make up this appellation established in 1988 near Fredericksburg, 80 miles west of Austin.
The Texas Hill Country Viticultural Area
This is the second-largest Viticultural Area in the United States. Established in 1991, it covers 15,000 square miles and contains part or all of 22 counties.
Escondido Valley Viticultural Area
Established in 1992, this Viticultural Area covers 50 square miles along Interstate 10 in Pecos County in far West Texas.
Texas High Plains Viticultural Area
This 12,000 square-mile area covers much of the central and western Texas Panhandle. It was approved in 1993.
Davis Mountain Viticultural Area
Approved at the close of 1999, this appellation is southwest of the Escondido Valley Viticultural Area. It is the last US appellation area to be recognized in the 20th century.
Mesilla Valley Viticultural Area
This appellation is located at the far western tip of the Texas border north and west of El Paso. It includes a portion of New Mexico.
Texoma Viticultural Area
The Texoma viticultural area is in north-central Texas, and includes Montague, Cooke, Grayson and Fannin counties. The area covers approximately 3,650 square miles on the south side of Lake Texoma and the Red River, along the Texas-Oklahoma state line.