The state legislature is considering a bill that would require wines labeled as “made in Texas” to be made from 100% Texas-grown grapes. The current minimum is 75% or more.
Debbie Reynolds, executive director of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, says, “Regarding House Bill 1514, the Association is not in favor of this bill at this time. We have voted to oppose it.” As currently worded, the bill doesn’t make sufficient allowance for unforeseen circumstances.
Rafael Hernandez, owner of Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus in Palestine, agrees. “If we go into 100% and let’s say we have a drought here in Texas that wipes out 50% of the grapes. Those people will actually have to go out of business because they can’t do [anything] else.”
Hernandez says the Texas wine industry is “very young.” Since it takes a new vineyard 3 to 5 years to start producing, he says new wineries have to import grapes until they get their feet on the ground. “I think it would be premature right now to [pass the bill],” he concludes. “Maybe give us about ten years from now and we should be producing enough grapes” to be able to produce Texas wines made from “100% grapes from Texas.”
Proposed amendments to the bill would phase in the 100% requirement and allow weather-related exceptions. Meantime, Hernandez says, it’s all in the labeling. “I can import, let’s say, grape[s] or juice from New York” to make and sell a wine here in Texas. “There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as I do not label it as Texas wine.”