There are a lot of things Texas is known for, like hot and dry seasons, belt buckles as big as your head, and 10-gallon hats. But another thing you should probably get familiar with is the Texas wine country. But what are the best Texas wines by variety and region? Unsurprisingly, there are a ton of different wines that the state is known for. Thanks to the state’s sunny and dry climate, it can easily produce wines that are comparable to those of Portuguese origins. But while some cooler states might rely on the cooler months of the year or wolder winds to work with different wine production and grape harvesting, Texas’s own climate makes for optimum growing conditions for the wine that the state has become well known for.
Wine production in Texas dates all the way back to the 1600s and, compared to some other wine producing states, that is quite a feat. Overall, Texas is home to more than 36 different members of the Vitis grapevine family, with 14 of them native to Texas, which happens to be more than any one region in the entire world. Again, that makes Texas kind of a big deal when it comes to wine. Not only that, but the state is home to eight primary wine regions where you can visit different wineries and vineyards to taste the wine for yourself. But not only do these wine countries attract visitors and millions of tourists per year, but they are locally known to house some of the best wine varieties in the country.
Overall, there are more than 200 wineries in Texas, which produce enough wine to make Texas the fourth largest wine producing state in the United States. When you consider other states, like Vermont, Oregon, or California, you really shouldn’t sleep on Texas as a primary wine production state. Unlike some other states, which might be considered large scale wine producers simply because of wine regions alone, Texas also has a claim to wine via the University of Texas System, which owns more than 1,000 acres of land dedicated to wine grape growth and wine production. The system is in place to reign over all of the major universities in Texas and its place in the world of wine adds to the overall large production numbers. The University of Texas System leases some of the lands to winemakers to increase the state’s wine production and really make the most out of the benefits of growing wine grapes and producing wine in Texas.
Anyone who has ever visited Texas has likely seen one of the strings of grape vines somewhere and, in most cases, these are dedicated to wine grapes. But there is a lot more to learn about Texas wine than the fact that the grapes are literally everywhere.
Texas Wine Regions
Mesilla Valley – West Texas
Although the Mesilla Valley also passes through New Mexico, it is part of the West Texas wine region. Unlike some other wine regions, where there might be acres upon acres of wineries and vineyards, this has less than 50 acres of vineyards and because of that, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel wine varieties created here rarely leave Texas or New Mexico. The valley runs along the Rio Grande river and because of that, it has a higher altitude than you might expect for a Texas wine region.
Bell Mountain – Central Texas
While some Texas wine regions share borders with other states and naturally spill across state lines Bell Mountain in Central Texas was the first region in the state to be contained solely in Texas. That doesn’t necessarily make for better or worse wine, but it is worth noting since it is easy for wineries and regions in Texas to share space with other states. This Texas wine region is comprised of more than 3,200 acres and is home to at least nine wineries.
Fredericksburg – Texas Hill Country
Fredericksburg might very well be the place to visit in Texas when it comes to wine. The area is home to around 50 wineries to visit and sample from and is commonly used for its many winery shuttles. That alone makes the experience of visiting this particular Texas wine region a little more exciting than most. In fact, according to a 2012-2013 survey, 32% of Fredericksburg visitors noted that wineries were their main reason for visiting the area.
Texas Hill Country
This Texas wine region takes up a good amount of space between different cities, so if you already have plans to visit Texas for San Antonio or Austin, it won’t be totally out of the way to hit up this wine region in the process. The top produced wine here is merlot, so if you prefer darker reds, this is especially the perfect region for you to get your wine on. Although the area is quite large, just 47 acres are dedicated to vineyards and there are just two wineries.
Escondido Valley is made up of around 32,000 acres of land, but surprisingly, not much of that has been used for steady harvesting just yet. There are just a few wineries located in the region and the area hasn’t yet been dedicated to any secret wine grape planting. Because they are is more of a tucked away wine region in Texas, the wine produced here rarely makes it out of Escondido Valley, so you might even consider it a delicacy.
Texas High Plains
The Texas High Plains wine region might be what you most expect from Texas when it comes to wine production areas. Most of the region is on flat land and quite dry. So much so that the vineyards are irrigated with water from the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a water table aquifer surrounded by sand, silt, clay, and gravel beneath the Great Plains. Despite the hot dry climate, though, the region tends to produce a decent amount of wine and still attract plenty of visitors because of the wine.
Texas Davis Mountains
The Texas Davis Mountains region is one of the most recent to be added to the Texas list as an AVA in 1999, but it still offers plenty of wine growth potential. The region is 270,000 acres and includes both flat ground and valleys between mountains, making for different kinds of growing conditions throughout the region. The most popular wines produced here are Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
Unsurprisingly, Texoma gets its name for being so close to Oklahoma and in Texas, it is situated in the north-central area of the state. With more than 233,000 acres encompassing the region, it is the second largest wine growing region in the state and wine grapes for Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay are popular in this area. The soil variations and climate are different in different parts of this Texas wine region, but regardless, they make for some optimum growing conditions throughout the year.
Texas Wine Varieties
Malbec is known for being an Argentinian wine, but Texas winemakers have it down to a science, literally. Texas Malbec is a fruity red wine that gives off hints of berries and spice too. It’s best when paired with heavy meat dishes.
This is another red wine that can be found all over Texas in different regions. You will likely find many options that claim to be Tempranillo wines, but they are all fairly rich and dark with hints of vanilla. You’ll still get the fruity undertones, however, though they aren’t typically overpowering.
The wine grape that makes Syrah is considered by some to be the best red wine available in Texas overall. The color and taste of the wine are rich an even unique in some ways and you can taste strong flavors of plums and berries, which make it a perfect wine to pair with meats and even pizza.
Unsurprisingly, this is another Texas wine of the red variety. Although you can find different wines throughout the state, red is easily one of the most popular varieties, regardless of the kind of wine it is. This one has some fruity and tart notes, but also some tea leaf notes and earthy undertones.
As a full-bodied wine, Texas Zinfandel has notes of different flavors you can somehow taste both individually and together as you drink the wine. It has flavors of cherries, cranberries, and even some floral notes that you can’t ignore.
Merlot is another full-bodied wine that Texans and Texas tourists tend to take a liking to. It has flavors of red berries and plums, which are expected with a red like this. But it also has tennis mixed in that you can also taste with each glass.
Texas Cabernet Sauvignon is a dry red wine that has strong bold flavors of cherry and can be found in various regions within Texas. It’s best when paired with meat dishes and has a smooth pleasant finish.
Pinot Noir offers cherries and a smooth flavor that is also a little lighter bodied. It’s more of dry wine and has some sweetness that you can’t quite ignore.
This is a deep dark red wine that can be almost black in color with flavors and natural colors derived from fruits like cherries and raspberries. It also has brown sugar, which makes it almost extra sweet, but as it is best when paired with meats like duck and brisket, that sweetness is often preferred.
If what you’re after is more of a white wine, then Texas Chardonnay might be perfect for you. It has big blended flavors like oak and citrus. It is more of a crisp wine than anything else and might even have some green apple flavors.
Blanc du Bois
Blanc du Bois wine comes from a hybrid grape that was created in the south and results in one of the most popular white wines in Texas. The distinct fruity wines can come in varieties ranging from dry and semi-sweet to port and sparkling wines.
Pinot Grigio is another popular white wine in Texas. It typically has a smooth taste and light and crisp flavor with notes of different fruits, most of the citrus variety.
As far as white wines go, Viognier is another unique take on a classic white. It has a slightly spicy flavor while also maintaining undertones of peach and apricot. There might also be hints of honeysuckle and almond to make the wine truly unique.
Texas Riesling wine might be the go-to white for both Texans and tourists. It has the standard light and fruits flavors that dance on the tongue, but also some floral aromas and balanced acidity.
As the name suggests, Sauvignon Blanc is white wine in Texas. The grape that makes this wine does best in hot climates, so it’s no wonder that it seems to thrive in some parts of the Texas wine country. It can sometimes have a mixed flavor of tropical fruits and bell peppers, but also notes of tart grapefruit in some cases.
Chenin Blanc is another white wine that is made from a grape native to France but able to flourish in Texas. It can create wines that either sweet, dry, or sparkling, so it’s plenty versatile. The resulting wine usually has some floral aromas and flavors relating to fruits like pears and apples.
Orange Muscat wine is one of those rare wines that can be easily paired with a meal of salmon and your dessert. It’s overall sweet with flavors of orange peel and even gooseberry. And surprisingly, the wine that comes out of it is a light orange color rather than a solid white or red variety.
Muscat Blanc wine is like a Moscato variety and typically has flavors relating to peach and citrus fruits. The grape it comes from is harvested until it is at its peak sweetness to make the resulting wine as sweet as possible.
This is another fruity wine that takes on most of its flavor from the grape it’s from. Overall, it has a strong zesty flavor that has floral, honey, and fruity aromas and can be paired with almost anything.
This wine comes from the Gewurztraminer grape, which isn’t too surprising and has a good balance of sugar and acidity. The wine has scents and flavors that are a combination of floral undertones and sweet fruit, but somehow some nutty flavors as well.
Semillon wine has some hints of fig and fruits like pineapple and melon, which results in a medium finish that isn’t too dry, sugary, or overall strong. It has a crisp finish and can be served chilled.
Four Things You Need To Know About Texas Wine
There Are A Handful Of Annual Wine Events In Texas
The Austin Food and Wine Festival is a three-day event held every April. Patrons can enjoy samlings of beer, food, and wine, and even see cooking demonstrations. The Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival is another yearly event held in April. Guests can try out the newest wines from their favorite local wineries and indulge in plenty of food and beverages since they are included with the ticket price. Another popular yearly wine event in Texas is the Gruene Music and Wine Festival, which takes place in October and includes music and a wine selection from not only Texas but around the world as well.
Texas Wine Goes Way Back
Wine is said to have been produced in Texas as far back as the 1600s near El Paso. This means that even before then, wine grapes must have been growing in the state in the many different wine regions. The dry and sunny Texas climate is likely what attracted winemakers to the area early on and Portuguese style wine grapes have continued to flourish in the state.
It All Depends On The Region
As with some other wine-centric states, the different wine regions in Texas make for different kinds of wine production overall. The Texas Davis Mountains, for example, specializes in the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon blanc while you will find wines that are prone to cooler climates up north in the Texoma wine region.
Texas Ranks High For Wine In The U.S. Overall
Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country, which doesn’t come as a huge surprise since there are so many popular wine regions within the state. Part of the reason why it ranks so high is also the fact that there are 400 wineries in the state and 5,000 acres of wine grapes in Texas. But not only does the state produce plenty of red varieties, but whites as well, so there is something for nearly every palette.
The 10 Best Texas Wines To Try For Yourself
- 2017 Burklee Hill Vineyards Banna Sue – This white wine uses the Muscat Canelli grape to create a wine that is aromatic with floral scents, but also has hints of tropical fruits like tangerines and pineapple.
- 2017 Duchman Family Winery Trebbiano – This wine is fruity all the way, bursting with flavors like peach and grapefruit. But it also somehow has a zesty lemon finish that you can’t quite shake and probably won’t want to.
- 2016 Kuhlman Cellars Zinfandel, Escondido Valley – If red wines are forever your thing, then you’d probably do well to buy yourself a bottle of this bold Zinfandel that has strong tones of savory herbs and even leather.
- 2016 Kuhlman Cellars Malbec-Merlot – Another solid red wine option is this Merlot, which has blueberry and raspberry tones both visually and in the flavor. But it also has a distinct smoky flavor that makes it more unique than you might first expect.
- 2016 Grape Creek Vineyards Cabernet Trois – Depending on your wine tastes, you probably either love or hate a tart wine. If your feelings are the former, then you might enjoy the black cherry and green jalapeno mix that this Cabernet offers.
- 2015 Westcave Cellars Reserve Sangiovese – You might get hints of a cola and red cherry mixed aroma, but the flavor is more similar to tart fruit and earthy tastes.
- 2017 Burklee Hill Vineyards Montepulciano – Sometimes, a fruit-centric wine is all you need and that’s what this variety offers. It has raspberry, cherry cordial, and eucalyptus flavors along with bubble gum, of all things.
- 2017 Lost Draw Cellars Grenache – You might initially notice the flavors of red flowers and cherries, but this wine will also give off earth flavors on the finish as well as high acidity.
- 2016 Lost Draw Cellars Malbec – Another option that has strong fruit flavors is this Malbec, which features raspberry, strawberry, and plum flavors, along with surprising savory herbs that all work well together.
- 2015 Landon Winery Tempranillo Reserve – If you’re looking for something just a little more unique, however, then you might want to try this Tempranillo. It has notes of dark fruits and parsley, but also chocolate and plum aromas.
Although one might argue that Texas is home to more full-bodied red wines than anything else, there seem to be wine varieties for nearly every taste imaginable. And the wines privy to the state goes well beyond simple flavor and aroma combinations. These are wines that surpass some of the norms when it comes to standard wine, and for good reason. Texas has been in wine production for more than 100 years and remains one of the top wine producing states in the country. It’s really no wonder that there are so many different wineries to check out and so many varieties. Not only that, but the wine culture in Texas is quite rich and there are numerous wine events and tastings to immerse yourself in throughout the year. And regardless of the region, you visit, there will likely be something to take away from Texas wine country.