Arriving in Texas from France, I wanted to catch up on what was happening here and found a very heated discussion on the internet that was instigated by a local writer and blogger by the name of Andrew Chalk who I briefly met at the TEXSOM Conference later held in Las Colinas right outside of Dallas Texas. His argument was in order to carry the registered ‘Go Texan’ emblem, wineries should use grapes which are 100% grown in Texas. But what do you do when you have a harvest year as disastrous as this year?…
Many of the Independent Texas grape growers and a few wineries were hit with heavy damage from hail in May which destroyed in some cases up to 80% of their crops. Then there were the recent unwelcomed thunder storms during the harvests which were late because of late flowering of some vineyards. This added an additional worry while the wineries scrambled desperately to salvage as many acres of their planted grapes still on the vines.
I went back to read what the Go Texas emblem means and is used for in Texas and found that everything was clearly written. The emblem is for use of agricultural products which are produced or processed in Texas. From a retail point of view, this is to add a quality value to any product that can meet the standards written by the Texas Department of Agriculture.
In the mean time, there have been many rebuttals to Andrew Chalks implications from sources like the Texas Wine Lover or others within and outside of the Wine realm. But instead of singly out and attacking the integrity of a winery to the point that they lost precious hard earned shelf space in a major retail super market, maybe the real question should have been what actually is the definition of a wine?
Although there are many so called fruit wines found not only in the USA, but even in France (i.e. peach wine) and other countries, by International standards, the definition of a wine is “ the complete or partial alcoholic fermentation of the sugar of freshly pressed or concentrated grape juice”. If the juice is from any other source other than grapes, this does not constitute a wine.
Another definition of a wine takes into considerations three major factors that without any one the three, the wine quality can be affected in the end. This definition we call the ‘Quality Definition of a Wine’. This definition takes into consideration the grape families and varieties, their DNA, the Environment called in France ‘le Terroir’ (i.e. soils and sub-soils, planting in altitudes or not planting low or high from the ground or even close together or far apart,…) of where the grapes are grown or how they are trained and handled throughout the years growing season, and finally the human touch or Man’s contribution to improving what nature has begun.
Now that we have establish what is a wine, the next question is, do the origins of where the grapes are grown add to the quality of wine? The answer is yes. Some grapes are very much influenced by its environment or Terroir, while others are not. We can sometimes (not always) find elements in the wine that links it back to where it comes from.
The Appellation systems in Europe are designed to not only protects the consumer from false advertising of origins, but also the producers who practiced regional identification of their products. Unlike in the USA and other ‘New World’ or ‘New Winemaking’ countries (when looking at the Asiatic countries), in Europe, to carry the name of its Appellation or Region, the grape must come 100% from that region or Appellation.
From my understanding, the Go Texan emblem is not an Appellation system, but a marketing tool to help promote products which
are processed in Texas. The products can come from other states as long as the origins are mentioned on the label or if there is at least 70% of Texas grown materials used when processing the product within the State.
So another question then, should the ‘Go Texan’ emblem stand as an Appellation? Again, this is only a logo. There at least eight American Viticulture Areas or AVA’s (which are the closest to being anything like the Appellation systems in Europe) Appellations in the State of Texas where the identity is clearly written.
Finally, to get a feel of what the wineries are up against, I visited and interviewed many of them from Dallas to Houston, from Waco to Fredericksburg and almost to San Antonio. I wanted to understand more about the challenges of producing Texas wines. So stay tuned, there is more to come!