Support Us Button Widget

Drink Up: Let’s talk about the incredible potential of Texas wine

We spoke with Kelsey Kramer, director of education for William Chris Wine Company, about the bright future of Texas’ wine industry.

A hand holding a glass of white wine

Texas wine is growing in popularity fast, but the industry’s innovation is just beginning.

Photo by ATXtoday

Imagine an iceberg with a small peak floating above the water. Below the surface, the ice stretches down far below, to what seems like an impossibly distant point. According to the experts, that’s what the future of Texas wine looks like.

Texas’ nearly 400-year-old wine making industry contributes $13.1 billion each year to the state’s economy and draws in 1.7 million visitors annually. That makes Texas the second-most visited wine region in the US, behind Napa Valley.

Local winemakers say this is just the beginning. We spoke with Kelsey Kramer, director of education for the award-winning William Chris Wine Company, about the growing popularity and recognition of the local wine industry.

William Chris Vineyard's Hye tasting room.

Take a trip out to Hye to try the 56th best winery in the world.

Photo by ATXtoday

Old world style in a new world region

When San Antonio-raised Kelsey first tried Texas wine, she was surprised. “It was a different style than I expected from a new world wine region.” Kelsey describes Texas wine as “old world in style”: lean, earthy, and ever-changing.

“I think most people don’t expect the elegance of Texas wine ... there’s just underneath a liveliness to all of it,” she said.

This is partially due to Texas’ sunny and dry climate, which draws comparisons to those of Spain and Italy.

Texas’ dry, hot weather also often affects local planters. In 2020, for example, Kelsey said planters saw a substantial loss in yield due to drought.

On one hand, that’s bad for growers. On the other hand, lower yield means the plant distributes more nutrients to the grapes that survive, resulting in tastier, more concentrated wine. (It almost makes you want to look for wine produced in a drought year, eh?)

A gif of a hand swirling a glass of wine with rows of vines in the background

Kelsey Kramer describes Texas wine as “old world style,” lean, earthy, and ever-changing.

Gif by ATXtoday

“There’s so much more that Texas tastes like”

Texas winemakers are fighting to correct some decades-old misconceptions about the Lone Star State’s wine industry.

“Texas has been making wine for a long time, but the modern era of Texas wine is very new,” Kelsey said. “People tried Texas wine 20 or 30 years ago and they have an opinion about it from then, but it’s changed a lot.”

Texans know that Texas wine is good, Kelsey said, but spreading that knowledge to others is the next challenge. Professionals in the wine industry are working hard to make that happen, and she said the level of Texas wine education spreading throughout the US and world has been heartening.

That work appears to have paid off. Last fall, William Chris Vineyards was recognized as the the No. 56 vineyard in the world, joining just six other US vineyards on the list and becoming the first ever Texas winery to be featured.

But if you thought local vintners would stop there, you’d be sorely mistaken. Wine makers have their sights set on discovering new ways to expand their repertoire.

There’s a lot of room for innovation, Kelsey said, and that’s one of the most exciting parts.

Kelsey points out that about half of Texas’ 254 counties have grapes planted in them, but not all of those are being used for wine. Between volcanic soil deposits, microclimates in dozens of different river basins, and soil that’s millions or billions of years old, there could be thousands of different growing regions in Texas that winemakers haven’t yet been able to explore.

“There’s so much more that Texas tastes like that we haven’t discovered yet,” Kelsey said.

A room with curved tables and a rug in the floor, and wine bottles lining the walls.

Learn about Texas wine and try a tasting or food pairing at William Chris Vineyard’s Hye location.

Photo by ATXtoday

What to try

If you’re interesting in starting a journey of Texas wine discovery, Kelsey recommends looking for:

  • Tempranillo | “It reacts really well to drought. It becomes more powerful in dry conditions, so it’s well-suited to Texas.”
  • Mourvèdre | “It tastes different everywhere it’s planted, and so it has a real range of personality.”
  • Syrah | “I’m seeing such exciting peppery floral syrahs that are really impactful and exciting, very lively.”
  • Roussanne and Marsanne | “Both of these are originally from the south of France and are just growing fantastically in Texas. Roussane is always going to have my heart. ... It’s a red wine drinker’s white wine.”

You can also learn more about local wine from William Chris Vineyard’s educational courses for industry professionals and non-industry wine enthusiasts.
Keep an eye out on the vineyard’s events calendar to sign up for classes like Texas Wine Ambassador Certification Course or WSET Level 1 Award in Wines. You’ll join some of the most passionate local wine drinkers.

“We have some of the most educated consumers that I have ever poured wine for,” Kelsey said. “The amount of curiosity of the people drinking Texas wine is absolutely astounding. ... I feel like people drinking Texas wine are so ready to support the state of Texas.”

More from ATXtoday