Why Texas Wines Deserve "Sense of Place"
July 7, 2019
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of the use of “Texas” on wine labels. In fact, House Bill 1514 and Senate Bill 1833 were introduced this session to address the issue. It makes sense that we make a push to protect Texas’ place in the wine industry. Can you think of anywhere else in the world that carries the same sense of pride in place as Texans do?
As a winegrower, I’ve been asked why I chose to stay here. Simply put, I couldn’t live in any other state, much less imagine myself farming wine grapes anywhere other than Texas. It all goes back to the “sense of place” the sense of being “Texan” that we all have. Texas as a wine-growing region is no different.
While the concept of terroir always stimulates debate among winemakers and grape growers around the world, most will claim that terroir has a substantial impact. The taste of Texas’ terroir comes from the weather, elevation, the whole environment working in tandem as a vine grows and matures. It’s the land and the elements that make each vintage unique.
The AVAs we work all have something distinct about them – something worthy claiming to be from “Texas” on the label.
The Texas High Plains
The Texas High Plains is a semi-arid region that brings a different structure to the wine. The vineyards we farm in the Texas High Plains AVA have a calcareous based soil. The pH is fairly high, which lends itself to a drier mouthfeel to the wine.
In this region, sandy loam over limestone adds layers to the minerality due to its drier terroir. There is a spiciness to the red grapes that come from this region. The Texas High Plains nights are cool and produce white wines with complex floral notes.
William Chris wines that exemplify the terroir are our 2015 Hunter Merlot-Malbec blend, or our signature white wine, Mary Ruth.
The Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country tends to be humid, much less arid than the Texas High Plains. The region is comprised of many different types of soil at pH levels ranging from acidic to basic. This adds more of a sweetness and iron-filled minerality.
In the Hill Country, nights aren’t as cool and the weather warms up earlier, then remains warm all season long. Hill Country terroirs display iodine notes (sometimes a characteristic of wines grown near the coast), and the soils give big fruit flavors to the red varietals grown here.
Consider trying: 2016 Enchante, 2015 Mandola Field Blend, or 2015 Tannat. If you're looking for a white try the 2016 Trebbiano.
Food for Thought
There is so much that goes into giving a wine its “sense of place” – things that naturally convey why origin is important. Everything must work together in harmony to yield the best possible grapes and ultimately the best possible wines.
In Texas, those elements work differently than they do in any other place, which is why understanding what it means to be a “Texas” wine is so important – distinguishing the appellation on a label is just a start.