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Aspinal of London (US)

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tomorrow's texas tea Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Texan RancherNM: So it sounds like you're quite the ambassador for Texas wines.  You're being very proactive in educating people to the fact that Texas wines are, in some cases, increasingly able to stand side by side with wines from some of the more established regions.  In fact, let's be honest: that's precisely how all of the existing American wine regions really garnered attention and respect to begin with — Oregon and Washington, definitely, but even starting with California.  Before the now legendary 1976 Judgment of Paris, when they were compared to those of Bordeaux and Burgundy, the wines of California hadn't really gotten any attention or respect.  By doing these comparative blind tastings, I think you're tapping into the most effective way to increase awareness and potentially overturn prejudice on wines from a lesser-known region that has yet to gain not only domestic but international attention.

RK: I do use the Judgment of Paris as a model, because it really puts it right up front.  Again, that's why I say that I'm either the best friend or the harshest critic of the Texas wine industry.  Comparisons are the only way these wines are going to gain credibility [in the industry], but it's also the only way that consumers themselves are going to take them seriously, especially since they have a lot of options in the marketplace.  There are two things that drive the consumer market: quality and price-point.  And I personally saw that from around 2000 to 2003, the industry had done a really good job implementing quality improvements.  So, while maybe not every wine in Texas is fantastic, we have some really, really good ones.  But even during that time, our price points were still mixed up.  Now, what I've seen since 2003 is that we're getting enough wineries with high enough production that they can actually be not only quality-competitive but price-competitive.  With budget wines — those less than, say, $20 — we've got some really good offerings now: the winery I just mentioned, Llano EstacadoBecker Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country; Messina Hof, just northwest of Houston, though they buy grapes from all over the state; and last, but not least, Fall Creek Vineyards, who was one of the first to plant vinifera grapes in the Texas Hill Country back in the 1970s.

I was really glad to see something, recently.  I went to a wine educational function in Austin, where they were doing what was called a 'Texas Two-Sip': four blind tastings, of two wines each, where in each case it was the same varietal being compared — one made in Texas, the other made in another region.  It was great!  I said, "I finally got it through to somebody!  The state's jumping in on this."  I was so pleased to see them do that.  And they were pouring for a bunch of sommeliers from around the state — what better way to promote and educate the wine market, than by going through the sommeliers who work at some of the better restaurants?

NM: Absolutely!  Clearly, opinions are beginning to change.  And with a shift in attitude comes further incentive for growth and improvement in the future.  Given that, what do you see lying ahead for Texas wines, specifically with the varietals being grown and the styles being made, but also generally for the industry as a whole?

RK: There's a few wineries that put in pretty extensive experimental vineyards with all sorts of varietals from around the world.  Some of them have maybe as much as five or ten worth of experience on them now, others perhaps three to five.  If you combine that with the state viticulturists in the different regions, I think we're poised to really move forward tremendously over the next five years in improving our production and quality, and honing in on what Texas is, in terms of what our wine identity is.  It's driven by what grows well in each region, but you also have to put that together with the types of food people eat in Texas.  It's a food and wine experience that most people are after.  We have a lot of spicy food and a lot of meat.  We're going to find that a lot of the styles of wine that we're talking about are actually very good food wines, particularly if you have a little heat or spice.  You really have to think about what types of wines are going to compliment the Texas palate.

NM: Great point!  Let's be honest, ours is historically not much of a food culture.  The fact that many of these producers are considering the local cuisine shows a tremendous amount of foresight and sensitivity to what's best for the local market.

RK: That's how I became this accidental blogger.  I'm trying to put together a proposal for the next book that the Texas wine industry needs.  The story I want to tell involves a sense of place.  What we've had so far are some typical books on wine roads or trails — travel kind of books — and a couple of foodie books that have a bunch of recipes.  But there hasn't been anything telling the story of what's Texas terroir.  The fun part of what I'm doing here is that I'm trying to organize my thoughts by blogging on a regular basis.  With this book I'm proposing, I want to tell the story about the land, the people, the climate, the farmers, the folklore, the cuisine — and weave it all together into something not only educational but fun to read.



 

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wine in the news

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Aspinal of London (US)