‘Texas Wines’ celebrates winemaking in the Lone Star State
Texas conjures up a lot of things: barbecues, rodeos, rolling plains, anything that’s supposed to be bigger and better than anywhere else. But when it comes to wine, most connoisseurs might prefer to take a pass. A new documentary, Texas wines, aims to change the perception that Lone Star State wine is unremarkable, if not downright unpleasant. For the farmers, winemakers and winemakers featured in the film, Texas is experiencing a wine renaissance. “Why do we do Texas grapes?” William Chris winemaker and co-founder Chris Brundrett asks rhetorically in the film’s opening scene. “Like, what else is there?”
Texas wines was directed by an independent filmmaker Robert Burkwho said wine spectator that he had the idea for the documentary after graduating from San Antonio film school. “I wanted to tell the stories of Texas…the Hill Country was having a wine boom, and I wanted to focus on that, [though] I had no idea of its actual size.
The movie doesn’t shy away from Texas’ vinous less than stellar reputation. Katy Jane Seatonof Farmhouse Vineyards in the High Plains AVA, admits that “the last time people tasted Texas wine…it wasn’t premium.” Neal Newsomowner of Newsom vineyards in the Hautes Plaines, says: “[People] walk up to a bottle of wine… and I’m sure they expect it to taste like gunpowder, or something, because it’s [from] Texas.”
Growing wine-worthy grapes in such an arid and unpredictable climate poses real challenges. Dr Andreea Botezatuwinemaker at Texas A&M’s Department of Horticulture, explains that “because of the heat here, the grapes tend to lose acidity during the ripening process…and that causes a number of quality issues. wine, from color to taste and microbiological stability”.
Winemakers trying out new, often unfamiliar grape varieties spurred the wine boom in Texas. In the early years, winemakers planted well-known (and commercially popular) grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But these grapes aren’t necessarily suited to the soils and climate of the state (Texas shares an approximate latitude with Spain and Italy, not California and France). Today, winemakers are enjoying success with an eclectic litany of varietals, including Aglianico, Tempranillo, Vermentino, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Tannat, Lenoir, Blanc du Bois, Viognier, Malvasia and the Counoise.
Master Sommelier James Tiwellco-founder of the Texsom Conference of Texas Sommeliers, credits the rise of Texas to winemakers who finally focused on grapes that best match the state terroirs. “Texas is really coming into its own with its identity. We are moving beyond the experimental phase of viticulture – we still do to some extent – but people are now settling on grapes that they really think will grow well in their specific vineyard or region, and they begin to cultivate them. And I think having that trust is very important for the growth of the industry.
Texas wines had a small San Antonio premiere before its first big screening in April at the USA Film Festival at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas. Since then it has won Best Documentary Short from the Texas Arthouse Festival and been nominated for awards at the Austin International Art Festival, WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival and others. Burks hopes the film will encourage people, Texans and non-Texans alike, to give Texas wines a shot. He also has plans for an eight-part docuseries focusing on the many elements – the story, the people, the science, land and more – which he says make Texas wine such a fascinating and tasty subject.
To those still skeptical about popping the cork on Texas wine, Burks says “try it now. Yes, it wasn’t so good before, but so much has changed, and so has the wine. He cites not only the wines of Texas, but also the pioneering spirit of the winemakers, the deep sense of freedom, possibility and togetherness found in Texas.
Dr. Botezatu puts it this way: “For people who aren’t from Texas and are going to watch [the film]: Come to Texas! We’ll take you out for a barbecue and some great Texas wine…and you’ll see for yourself how good our wines are.
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