California Grapes in Texan Wine? Get a Rope

Did you know that most wine bottled and sold in Texas isn't grown here? Despite the fact that Texas is the fifth largest wine-producing state in the U.S.?

It's true: Much of the wine that we enjoy as a Texan product -- even the stuff held up as a domestic treasure by the Texas Department of Agriculture -- is actually made from grapes grown in California.

In a "bad vintage" like the disastrous 2011 harvest, plagued by drought and extreme temperatures, said Gabe Parker, director-at-large of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, "less than 50 percent of the wine bottled in Texas is grown here." And in a good vintage, that number isn't much higher.

It's not that we can't grow grapes here, of course. We're just growing the wrong ones.

Most of the grape plantings in Texas are varietals that wither and underproduce in the extreme Texas heat: Cabernet, Chardonnay and Merlot. The wines from those grapes end up insipid and flabby, the result of the grapes' signature acid burning off in the sun. As a result, almost every bottle of wine made in Texas has to be chemically corrected in the cellar, with acid and other chemicals added to make it taste like wine once again.

But can't Texas do better? It can, and that's the crux of this week's cover story, "Texas Wines: Behind the Cellar Door." Where is the $1.7 billion Texas wine industry headed? And what measures will be necessary to ensure its eventual success on the international stage? Head over to our cover story and find out.

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Katharine Shilcutt