by Andrew Chalk
June 12th, 2014: In a major rules announcement the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) today proposed that future use of the GO TEXAN mark on wine packaging will require that 75% of the grapes used to make the wine be from Texas. This replaces the existing rule under which 0-% of the grapes must be from Texas and makes GO TEXAN labeling consistent with Federal appellation labeling.
This change is a huge win for three groups, and a huge loss for one.
It is a huge win, first of all, for Texas wine consumers who can now be sure that a wine with the familiar “GO TEXAN” mark on the label, from the 2014 vintage forward, is at least 75% Texas grapes. To see if a wine is 100% Texas grapes the consumer will still have to consult the back label and read the winery’s description of the wine.
It is a huge win, second, for Texas wine makers. They will no longer have to compete with people who bring in cheap wine in tanker cars from out of state and use the GO TEXAN logo to embellish their product with a false and undeserved Texas identity.
The third winner is Texas grape growers who will see an increase in demand for their grapes as consumers seeking Texas wines are more accurately able to discern a true Texas product, and consumers who start to buy Texas wine because of the renewed integrity of the GO TEXAN logo.
The losers are the juice mixers. Those who do not either make wine in Texas or grow grapes here (and have no intention of ever doing so). They have lost the use of the GO TEXAN mark on their non-Texas wine. That business model is dead.
The TDA rule proposal now goes out for 30 days of public comment, after which it will become a rule of the GO TEXAN program. The rule would not affect the right to use the GO TEXAN mark on marketing materials, just on the wine bottle itself. Consumers should rely on the bottle if there is doubt.
During the discussion of this rule change, there were two periods of public comment. Taking the two together, there was overwhelming opposition to the old 0% rule. A 75% rule, of the type that the TDA now proposes, had broad support. A proposal for a 100% Texas grape requirement, which I originally proposed, did not get adopted. However, I regard a 75% rule as a 99% victory as it eliminates the juice mixers from the market. I also regard the rule proposal by the TDA as very enlightened, as it views the future of the Texas wine industry as being composed Texas growers, and makers of wine from Texas grapes. This may seem obvious to many observers, but it was not long ago that “Texas wine” meant a re-bottled California jug wine product. With this ruling, the TDA drives home what wine enthusiasts around the state have been saying throughout this campaign, that that is not the future of wine in Texas.