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.
Texas is not the biggest wine-producing state in the U.S., but it is one of the most diverse. For wine lovers, that means there is always a new wine to drink, a new varietal to try and a new vintage to savor.
A wine tasting with Texas wines is the perfect way to sample an assortment of wines all at once to discover new favorites. Tasting wines blind—when the bottles and labels are hidden from the tasters—is a great way to get the most out of a wine tasting.
The best Texas wines for wine tasting are those that are accessible enough that you can purchase the wines that stand out in the tasting again, and yet not so common that you aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to expand your wine knowledge.
How to Choose Texas Wines for Wine Tasting
A round up of Texas wines for wine tasting should begin with a selection of vintages, regions, varietals or blends. You should find at least four similar types for comparison.
For example, in the Texas High Plains, Reddy Vineyards grows 38 Texas wine grape varieties, representing nearly all the Texas grape varietals found in that region and more than half of the 50 varietals grown throughout the state. This offers a wide range of different types of wines to taste from a single producer, vintage, or region as a benchmark.
Starting with Reddy Vineyards, you could host a tasting focused on a single varietal, such as Marsanne. To help determine the Texas best wines for wine tasting, consider including at least four wines for each tasting but no more than six to avoid palate fatigue.
How to set up wines for wine tasting
What to look for while wine tasting
Side-by-side comparisons are the best way to taste almost anything from wine to cocoa powder. At the very least, you’ll determine what tastes best to you.
For wine, you’ll want to pay close attention to the aroma and taste, the latter is heavily influenced by the former, so you’ll always want to make sure you aren’t suffering from a cold or allergies when you participate in a tasting.
Evaluating wines in a wine tasting
When it’s time to taste, you will want to take notes if for no other reason than noting which wines you like the best and why. But an in-depth evaluation can include everything from how long a wine’s finish is to whether or not it displays regional character.
Each wine should be evaluated by its color, aroma, and taste. Each of these should be defined by as many descriptions as possible—take your time and roll the wine around in the glass and then in your mouth. Other things to consider is whether the wine is complex, showing many different tastes or aromas, and whether the wine is balanced, showing each of those characteristics in harmony.
After you’ve sniffed, tasted and assessed each wine, score your wines beginning at one as the best. When everyone has finished scoring, combine everyone’s scores to give a group rating for the wines.
Starting with the lowest scoring wine, ask the tasters who scored it the highest and the lowest what they liked or disliked. After everyone has discussed it, reveal the wine and discuss again.
Pouring the Best Texas Wines for Wine Tasting
When you are pouring the best Texas wines for wine tasting you might be tempted to offer big pours. But for a wine tasting, one to two ounces per wine is plenty for a taste. Make sure there is still wine in the bottle in case anyone wants to re-taste after the wine is revealed. Also, make sure the wines are all at the same temperature, so one doesn’t stand out for being too warm or too cold. Each taster should also have a spit bucket to spit out each wine after assessing it and a glass of water.
Not all wine tastings need to be formal. Anytime you are at a party or sitting down to dinner where more than one wine is offered, take the time to evaluate each wine. Consider this type of tasting as an exercise for your palate, and that practice will pay off as you develop a greater sense of what wines appeal the most to you.
If you’re planning a wine tasting trip through Texas, you’ll want to consider indulging in one of the best winery tours in Texas Hill Country. There are several companies that offer exceptional services to tour Texas wineries. You can find tours that are group-based and private, tours that hit only the most well-known wineries and those that take you off the beaten path to hidden gems you’ve maybe never heard of.
The best winery tours in Texas Hill Country will provide a vehicle that suits your group size and will include a guide who will provide background information on the region, the wineries, and the wines.
You can expect to be picked up and dropped off at a designated location, such as your hotel. Most tours will take several hours to a full day, will include a visit to three or more wineries and a wine tasting at each winery.
Winery Tours in Texas Hill Country
There are lots of companies that can provide exceptional winery tours in Texas Hill Country. The beauty of enlisting one of the Texas Hill Country wine tours, is the relationships they have with wineries, which can translate to the opportunity to experience a special tasting or activity that wouldn’t otherwise be available to guests.
Three of the top wine tours in Texas Hill Country are:
Discover Texas Wine Tours. This tour company offers half- and full-day tours and included in its pricing are tasting fees, door-to-door round-trip transportation, chilled water bottles, and more. It can facilitate private barrel or specialty tastings and welcomes guests to bring along their own alcoholic beverages and snacks to enjoy in the vehicle. All of the vehicles are private and there are multiple sizes to select from. It offers pickups and drop offs from several towns and guests can select which wineries to visit.
Heart of Texas Wine Tours. This Texas Hill Country-based tour company offers tours throughout Hill Country and specializes in visiting boutique wineries. Whether you’re with a small group of wine enthusiasts or celebrating a bride-to-be, Heart of Texas Wine Tours can provide private, customized winery visits via a Mercedes Euro Bus. Tour options include three or four winery stops. Tasting fees are not included so guests have a greater selection of tasting options.
Hill Country Wine Tours. This Fredericksburg, Texas-based tour company offers clients a guided tour to quality wineries throughout the Hill Country via stretch limousine. Tours are base out of Fredericksburg and are designed to accommodate guests' preference in wines and include popular wineries as well as some that are more private.
Specialized Texas Winery Tours
Wine tours in Texas Hill Country go beyond wine tastings with a special offering, something that enhances your wine tasting experience, such as a food pairing or a vineyard walk. In fact, you can easily find a tour tailored to your interests.
And Texas winery tours don’t necessarily require a visit to wine country. In and around Dallas there are range of wine tours, including these:
Planning Basics for Texas Hill Country Wine Tours
We recommend starting with how much time you want to spend on a winery tour, how many wineries you want to visit and what, if any, additional features do you want to include.
Next, determine where you want to go. Do you want to stay near Austin? Travel out west to the Texas High Plains to visit Reddy Vineyards?
And of course, you’ll want to consider your budget. Prices range from as little as $65 to as much as $240 per person for standard tours. For customized tours, there can be hourly fees rather a per person charge. Most tours do include the tasting fees in the tour price, but some don’t so be sure to ask in advance.
We always advocate tours. You can relax and enjoy your visit and take advantage of the tour guide’s familiarity and knowledge of the area and the wineries. We hope to see you on a wine tour at Reddy Vineyards soon.