One: Texas is the second-oldest wine-making region of America. Spanish priests established a chain of mission churches along the Rio Grande near El Paso starting in the 1650s. In order to hold Mass, sacramental wine was required for the sacrament of the Eucharist. Rather than have wine shipped from Mexico City, a hazardous journey of four months by wagon train through treacherous desert and hostile native territory, they planted Spanish grape vines in the river floodplain and made their own wine. Wine was made continuously somewhere in Texas from the 1650s to 1920.
Two: There are six species of grapes native to Texas, including canyon grapes near El Paso, mustang grapes in the Hill Country, and muscadine grapes in East Texas. The fruits of these grapes are bitter and highly acidic, with thick skins, making them highly unsuitable for winemaking. Almost all commercial wine made in Texas is made from European wine grapes. There are a few specialty wineries, and at-home hobby winemakers, who utilize mustang or muscadine grapes. This requires chaptalization, a fancy winemaking term for adding sugar to the grape juice.
Three: Nearly all of the thirty-six wineries in Texas closed in 1920 as a result of Prohibition. After repeal, no new wineries opened in the state until Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock began selling wine in 1976.
Four: Today, five million people each year come to the Texas Hill Country to visit one of the 53 wineries in the region. This makes the Hill Country one of the two most-visited wine regions in America, along with Napa County.
Five: Because of the warm, humid Texas climate, in the last 10 years viticulturists (grape growers) in the state have focused more on growing grape varieties best suited to our growing conditions, with less emphasis on the most popular or best-selling varieties. The most common types grown in Texas are: tempranillo from Spain, sangiovese from Italy, and viognier and mourvedre from France. When you’re trying Texas wine, keep an eye out for these varietals.