July 23, 2020

Texas Wine 101: Shopping for your First Case of Texas Wine

Texas Wine 101: Shopping for your First Case of Texas Wine

On today’s episode, I’m giving advice to people who are just getting started on their Texas wine journey. I've got a plan for shopping for your first case of Texas wine. There's news about the wine department at H-E-B, the highest elevation vineyard in Texas, GrapeFest, and Kim McPherson's appearance on another wine podcast. And I’m drinking piquette from Southold Farm + Cellars.

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Mentioned in this Episode

Texas Wine In the News

  1. "H-E-B Is A Texas Titan"
  2. Tablas Creek Blog
  3. The Taste With Doug Shafer Podcast featuring Kim McPherson

Texas Wine 101: Shopping for your First Case of Texas Wine

Today I’m going to talk you through what you need to know to get started learning about and drinking The Lone Star State’s greatest fermented fruit juice. That’s right, I’m talking about Texas wine.

If you’re not already drinking Texas wine, what are you waiting for? So you’re not an early adopter. That’s OK. You’re here now, and that’s what matters. This episode is for all of you who are ready to explore Texas wine but are not quite sure where to start.

Texas isn’t new to grape growing or winemaking. In fact, the first grapes were grown in Texas in the 1600’s by Spanish missionaries. We’ve had our ups and downs over a couple centuries, not to mention the nationwide catastrophe of Prohibition, but things started looking up for Texas wine in the 1980’s. The number of wineries expanded, and the wine started flowing.

Remember it wasn’t until 1976 that the judgment in Paris happened when it became OK to even drink California wine. Before that France was the end all and be all. As I shared in my last podcast, many Californians and wine connoisseurs who had heard about Texas wines called them disparaging names like “Chateau Bubba” or “Cactus Blanc.”

Here we are in 2020. Texas wine is a whole new ballgame. The spirit of experimentation is alive and well here. Texas isn’t just making the wines your parents drank, although sure, there are some of those too. You’ll find a bit of everything in Texas, from the most traditional grape varieties made in time honored ways to some more lesser known grape varieties, ancient winemaking techniques that are making a comeback. Behind every bottle, or can or keg, there’s a great story about hardworking Texans who farm the land and make great wine.

There is a growing sense of pride in Texas grown, Texas made products and Texas wine is no different. Isn’t it about time Texas wineries had as much support as iconic Texas products as Whataburger, Bucee’s, Dr Pepper and Shiner Bock. That’s one reason I’ve been using the hashtag #texansdrinktexas.

Today I want to give you some pointers about how to experience Texas wine for the first time, or the first time in a long time.

But first, here are 5 things that I don’t recommend:

  1. Trying Texas wine once in 1997 and deciding it’s not for you and never trying it again.
  2. Trying texas wine in 105 degree weather out of a plastic shot glass at a festival and deciding it’s not for you and never trying it again.
  3. Mistakenly believing that a generic California wine is a status symbol.
  4. Being crazy about craft beer but not giving texas wine its due.
  5. Being all about natural wine but not considering texas’ natural wine producers. and even the more conventional producers that are using low-impact styles. This is a topic that could take up an entire podcast episode, but just know that the growers and wineries that are responsibly farming grapes in Texas are doing so with a lot of care for the end product and for the environment.

Sadly, In the COVID-19 era, the places where you might encounter Texas wines are dwindling in number. Festivals are canceled, and we aren’t spending time in bars. Even wine tasting at wineries is on hold for the moment. Still restaurants are open, we still have to shop for groceries, and thank goodness, internet shopping is still a thing. We can experience Texas wines in all of these places, so let’s talk about each one.

Then I’ll finish by introducing my Texas Wine starter case, a shopping guide that will fill your shelves with a nice variety of Texas wine.

In a restaurant:
Whenever you see a Texas wines on a restaurant wine list, I highly recommend that you order it. Not only do you get to try a Texas wine, but your purchase signals to the restaurant that there’s a market for Texas wines on the list.

Since you’re attempting to drink more Texas wine, why not look for a restaurant that’s been recognized as having a great Texas wine list? look no further than the restaurants that have been named Texas Wine Champions by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Wine Ambassador Jason Hisaw. Jason works for a wine distribution company but has also been given authority by the Department of Agriculture to award restaurants that are great supporters of texas wine with this designation. You can find the list of restaurants by following Jason’s Instagram account: @txwineambassador. He travels the state and gives out these awards to deserving restaurants that have Texas wines by the glass and by the bottle.

Finally, if a restaurant that you visit frequently DOESN’T have Texas wine on the list, ask for it! Restaurant owners have no reason to change up their list unless they ask. Ask them in person, and then ask them again on social media.

In a wine shop or grocery store:
Do you know which wine shop near you has the best selection of Texas wines? Make it your mission to find out! Don’t be afraid to talk to the salesperson. Maybe the shop will offer tastings or classes on Texas wine or let you know when a new wine comes in. Not only that, find out which sales person is the biggest fan of Texas wine, and get to know that person. Expect to get some great wine recommendations once you’ve established a relationship.

Don’t limit yourself to the most familiar international varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Although these can be great in Texas, some of our best wines are made from less common grapes such as Mourvèdre, Tannat, Montepulciano, Tinto Cao, Cinsault, or Picpoul Blanc.
You’ll also run across wines with fantasy names such as Skeleton Key or Junkyard Red. It might not be clear what’s inside. Hopefully a staff member can help make recommendations if these grapes or brands are unfamiliar to you.

One word of caution: Be aware that wine shops and grocery stores have started importing wine from Mexico. Quite good wine in fact. One popular brand is Casa Madero which is the oldest winery in the Americas. But it’s often displayed with the Texas wine. Don’t pick it up by accident!

In the winery:
As you probably know, there are A LOT of texas wines that aren’t sold in the grocery store, and you won’t find them on a restaurant wine list. Instead, they’re sold in tasting rooms or through mailing lists. These are probably the wineries that have had the toughest time this year since tasting rooms have been shut down. It is estimated that 95% of Texas wine is sold through the tasting room, so you can imagine the impact of the shutdown has had on these wineries. It’s really a shame, because there’s no better place to learn about Texas wine than to go straight to the source.

That leads me to how we can best support Texas wineries. The answer is simple, buy wine from them. Yep, The absolute best way to support Texas wineries is to buy wines directly from wineries. When you buy curbside or online, the wineries are making more money than when the wines enter the distribution channel and get sent to retail locations.

So since you’re committing to learning more about Texas wine, I want you to go visit the 5 tasting rooms that are closest to where you live - as soon as you can safely do so. Try their wines and learn their history. And while you’re at it, inquire about the wine club and any upcoming events on the calendar.

Not every winery has a wine club. Some are selling to an email list or they’re just dependent on whoever walks through the doors of a tasting room. But if a winery offers a wine club, that’s a great way to support them. They count on your consistent support from season to season. When you sign up, you’re guaranteeing that you’ll stay a club member for a least a couple shipments.

The best way you can find out which wineries are closest to you is to visit the Texas Wine Lover website at txwinelover.com and click on winery map.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to go shopping and fill a case with Texas wine as suggested in the graphics that are posted to Instagram and Facebook. I’m calling it the Texas Starter Case.

Basically, it’s an empty case box with labels for what Texas wines you need to buy to fill the box. If you drink the assigned wines, I feel like you’ll have a good sense for what Texas wine is all about. As we’ve discussed already, you can get these wines through retail channels, or better yet, directly from a winery.

My Texas wine shopping list includes 3 slots for white wines: I’m suggesting a Viognier, a white blend, and a wildcard.

You’ve 3 slots for rose. One of those might be a pet-nat. Now these are going to be hard to find at a grocery store. I think most Texas rose gets sold out of the tasting room because it’s so popular. But do yourself a favor and seek it out, because I think rose is one of the wines Texas does best. And if you can’t find a pèt-nat or another bottle of sparkling wine, substitute a canned rose! There are several on the market, and I even drank one on the last podcast.

Finally, the other half the case is dedicated to red wine. I’ve included many of our state’s favorite grape varieties here, as well as another wildcard slot, this time for a red wine.

When you’re looking for suggestions of which wines to try, you might want to do some research before heading out to the store or placing that online order. Ask your friends and family. Log on to the Texas Wine Lover website and look to see which wines have won awards. Of course I’m partial to the wines that have won at TEXSOM International Wine Awards because that’s the competition where I volunteer, and it’s definitely a tough competition to medal in, but you know when a wine wins there that it’s been carefully considered by a stellar panel of top notch judges and is really a special wine. The Texas Wine Lover site always shares results from the TEXSOM competition, from the San Francisco competitions and others, so you can go to txwinelover.com and find the results to see which wines have won.

Click here for Texas Wine Lover coverage of Texas wine results in recent competitions

I’ll mention a few of my favorite wines that may be good choices for your starter pack:

More Rosé Recommendations from my recent interview:
"Try These 5 Texas Rosés This Summer"

Education & What I'm Drinking

Southold Piquette

Quick update since recording the episode: Regan says that they use  a mix of red and white grapes in the pomace. They add no So2, just a very small mixture of yeast and sugar for canning. That's what gives the piquette its fizz. There you have it! 

The Austin Winery make piquette too!

"Getting to Know Piquette, A Wine Adjacent Spritzer"

"What is Piquette? Meet Wine’s Easy-Drinking, Low-alcohol Style"