Cowboy Country Class: Texan Farmers Turn To Grapes

 


You can't make shirts with it, but wine definitely tastes better with cotton.
 
Texas' farmers – some who've relied on cotton for years – are now turning to grapes as a source of income, so much so, The Wall Street Journal reported this past Monday, that the state is now one of the top-five wine producers in the United States.
 
“Among the rows of white-tufted cotton plants that have long been (West Texas') cash crop, farmers are increasingly cultivating a new product: wine grapes,” reporter Ana Campoy wrote. “The Lone Star State now ranks as the nation's fifth-largest wine producer after California, Washington, New York and Oregon.”
 
Those numbers, Campoy wrote, are according to statistics released by Wines Vines Analytics, who showed that in 2014 “Texas winemakers churned out 1.8 million cases.”
 
The 2014 production in Texas was a 36 percent increase over 2010. According to Campoy, Texas' wine industry accounts for nearly $2 billion of the states economy.
 
Growing grapes provides farmers with a distinct economic advantage over growing cotton. It's this very advantage which has led farmers to turn in their cloud-like crops for the ruby rows of grapes.
 
“A long-standing drought and falling cotton prices are also enticing more of them to plant grapes,” the article said. “A vineyard costs more than $10,000 an acre to put in, but can generate as much revenue as 40 acres of cotton with a fraction of the water use.”
 
Part of the success of West Texas' wine industry is the weather – grapes are grown in higher elevations which provide plenty of sunlight during the day and cool temperatures during the night. 
 
That's plenty of reason for farmers to hang their hat on grapes, the article said. However, aspiring cowboy country grape growers beware: frost is a big problem among Texan vineyards.
“The extreme weather in many parts of the state isn't always conducive to grape growing,” Campoy wrote. “Last year some local growers lost about 40% of their crop to frosts, and around 90% two years before.”
To counter the risk of frost, Texas winemakers have tried to lasso the best anti-cold equipment they can find.
 
“As demand rises, vineyard owners are plowing ahead, buying fans and heaters to protect vines from frost and scouring the world for grapes such as Italian Montepulciano and Spanish Tempranillo that are more likely to do well on Texas soil than delicate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” Campoy wrote.
 
Ambitious as they are, the state's winemakers are aware of their shortcomings, Texas wine author Russell Kane told Campoy.
 
“It took about 30 years (until) we realized that we weren't Bordeaux, and we sure as hell weren't Burgundy,” Kane said in the article.
 
The state's wine industry – West Texas, in particular – remains ambitious amid its measured self-examination.
 
“West Texas will one day be a very desired drink,” said Buzz Timmons, a leader in the West Texas town of Bronwfield. “People are going to walk into a restaurant and ask, 'Do you have a Texas wine?'”
 

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Comments

  • Then he hasn't tasted Dan Gatlin's wines! So much for giving credence to Kane's reviews anymore...

    Apr 22, 2015 at 3:02 PM


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