Texas may be known for its cattle and cotton, but the Lone Star State knows a thing or two about grapes. According to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, as the No. 5 state in the nation for wine production and No. 7 for wine consumption, Texas’ wine industry contributes $1.8 billion to the state’s economy, and the state boasts approximately 4,400 acres of vineyard-producing farmland.
“Texas wineries are getting more recognition because they grow certain varietals very well,” says Debbie Reynolds of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. “They increase the acreage of crops grown every year.”
The state’s industry took off in the early 1970s, when three state educators formed the Texas Grape Growers Association to help farmers learn how to produce a successful crop. At the end of the decade, Texas had approximately eight wineries that were producing wine. In the years since, the industry has steadily grown. Today, there are 273 commercial wineries in Texas, some of which have been recognized internationally.
More than delicious wines, Texas’ wineries and vineyards are incorporating agritourism into their venues as well, offering events such as jazz nights, Sangria Thursdays, festivals and more. Reynolds says when she goes to visit, wineries are usually packed on weekends.
“The Texas Hill Country is the second most visited wine destination in the United States,” Reynolds says. “Many go strictly for wine tours and tastings, and wineries are starting to see loyalty from these customers. They’re starting wine clubs, where visitors can subscribe to have a certain number of bottles sent to them every month, and even guests from out of state are having their wines shipped from Texas.”
To further agritourism efforts, Reynolds says that the Association is planning to launch a mobile marketing app, where visitors can virtually “check-in” at wineries across the state and earn points for free merchandise such as t-shirts, wine glasses and more.
Some of Texas’ most popular varietals that keep visitors coming back to the wineries include Tempranillo and Sangiovese for reds, and Blanc du Bois, Moscato and Viognier for whites.
Reynolds says that Texas’ grape growers are getting better every year, learning how to deal with environmental elements such as an early freeze.
“They’re very prosperous and learn what works best because they’ve had to deal with these fights each year,” she says. She adds that the state’s industry will continue to grow and provide economically for Texas.
“Every day someone calls us saying they have some extra land and want to get into the commercial winery business.”