They say that everything is bigger in Texas. That certainly is true when it comes to the list of Vitis (grapevines) that are found in the state. Vitis is the genus of which there are 79 species of grapevines and in Texas there are 42 species—more than any other state in the country. Many of them are native to the state.
While all Vitis are grapevines, there are some species that do not produce any fruit, some that produce fruit for eating out of hand, and those that produce a grape perfect for winemaking. Examples of Vitis in Texas that are used to make wine are some of the most prolific grape varietals in Texas Hill Country, including Black Spanish and Blanc du Bois. These grapes are hybrids that were developed because they are more resistant to diseases, critical in a region where pests that harbor viruses like the devastating Pierce’s disease is a threat to vines.
The history of Texas wine grape varietals is key to understanding why there is such a vast collection of grapevines in the state. For non-native Vitis, the state’s grapevine history can be traced back to nearly 100 years before California planted its first vines, when Spanish missionaries traveled through Texas planting grapevines from Europe to make sacramental wines. Over the centuries since, the number of wine grapes grown in Texas expanded significantly, many of which are Vitis vinifera, the most common type of grapevines found in Spain, France, and Italy, and fine wine regions in the US like California, Oregon and Washington.
Today, more than 50 types of wine grape varieties in Texas are grown in the state’s five regions—about half of the number of wine grape varietals grown in California. The majority of the grapevines planted are Vitis vinifera and are concentrated in two of the state’s winegrowing regions. In fact, there are nearly as many wine grape varietals in Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains than the other three regions combined according to the most recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA-NASS).
In the Texas Hill Country, there are just over 1,000 acres planted to grapevines with a mix of about 30 percent white grapes and 70 percent red. The USDA-NASS reported that the production was 1,321 tons of fruit, predominantly from six of the top 10 planted Texas grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Merlot are three of the top four planted vines and the highest producing. Ranking third on the list for Texas wine grape varieties planted is Black Spanish, a grape that was grown initially because of its resistance to disease but is now used for port-style wines and in blends to add aroma and dark color.
In the Texas High Plains, Reddy Vineyards grows 38 Texas wine grape varieties, representing nearly all the Texas grape varieties found in that region. Region-wide there are approximately 3,100 acres planted to grapevines with a mix of just a little under 30 percent white and a little over 70 percent red grapes. NASS reported a production of 7,800 tons of fruit in 2017 in the region.
Similar to the mix of wine grape varietals in Texas Hill Country, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are the top two grape varieties grown in the Texas High Plains and Panhandle regions. The third and fourth are Merlot and Mourvedre, grapes often used for blends. These top four Texas grape varieties are also the most productive in the region.
There are more than 4,500 planted acres of fruit-bearing vines throughout the state of Texas. The breakdown of red versus white grapes in the state as a whole is 30 percent white grapes and 70 percent red grapes. From the most popular to the least-known wine grapes grown in Texas, they each are important to the states wine production.
For Reddy Vineyards, the opportunity to grow such diverse grape varieties allows it to make its signature blends, including Reddy Vineyards TNT Red Blend, Reddy Vineyards The Dyer Red Blend, and Reddy Vineyards Field Blend. Additionally, Reddy Vineyards is able to make single varietal wines, such as Reddy Vineyards Marsanne and Sauvignon Blanc—all from estate fruit.
The wine landscape in Texas offers wine lovers a phenomenal selection of wines that are as large and unique as the state itself.