This week the 2014 Texas State Fair gets into full swing and one of the attractions is the Wine Garden Presented By Go Texan and Texas Monthly. The web site informs visitors that this “…is a great way to explore Texas-made wines”. I was excited that Texas wines would get such a prominent stage in front of so many potential customers. However, before writing about it, I e-mailed the state fair organizers to confirm that I fully understood the criteria for a wine to be considered a “Texas wine” for this event — the Texas State Fair. Per Federal law, a Texas wine is a wine that is made at least 75% from Texas grapes
The results amazed me. Not only may a wine have 0% Texas grapes to qualify as ‘Texas Made’ for the state fair wine garden, it does not even have to be made in Texas. Someone could buy finished wine on the California bulk market and ship it here in a tanker truck. Then, bottle and label it in Texas (probably with a label that makes it look as though it comes from Texas – cowboys, flags, etc.) and that would meet the criteria for it to be served at the Texas State Fair Wine Garden as a Texas made wine. As long as the seller has a Texas address, it would qualify. These bulk imports with misleading labels damage Texas grape growers and Texas wineries making wine from Texas grapes, as well as misleading consumers.
I asked the organizers if they had verified the origins of the grapes in these wines and they confirmed that they had not. So I decided to contact as many of the participants as possible and ask them the origins of their grapes. Below, the results show that, of the 26 participants (as of Sept. 6th) in the Wine Garden, six replied and all six of them plan on serving all Texas wines. Of the remainder, presumably some did not have time to reply (there was a busy harvest going on) so there may be other all-Texas wineries on this list. Those wineries should feel free to leave a comment below.
WINERIES SERVING ONLY TEXAS WINES AT THE 2014 STATE FAIR
How do you tell which wines are Texas wines? Here is a guide to sniffing out non-Texas wines at this, or any other tasting that you attend (portions of this are reprinted from here).
How To Recognize a Texas Wine
1) On the front label it has got to say Texas or a political subdivision of Texas (such as a Texas county) or a Texas American Viticultural Area (AVA) such as Texas Hill Country or Texas High Plains.
2) It’s a fake if the back label contains the words (usually in very small print):
For Sale In Texas Only
I have given a full explanation here but, long-story-short, the designation For Sale In Texas Only almost invariably means a California jug wine. I have never had a good wine with this designation.
Back label of a non-Texas wine. Note the phrase “For Sale In Texas Only” which allows the wine label to not disclose the origin of the grapes. This wine was not made in Texas and was not made from Texas grapes.
Vinted and Bottled/Cellared and Bottled
If you see a wine with either “Vinted and Bottled” or “Cellared and Bottled” on the back label rather than “Produced and Bottled” or “Estate Bottled” then assume that the wine was not made by the winery whose name is on the front label. These vague terms can mean as little as that a wine was stored in a warehouse of the winery named on the front label (having been made elsewhere). The full Federal regulations can be found on the TTB web site and a brief guide (that is a little out of date) can be found here.
So it is caveat emptor regarding Texas wine at the State Fair this year. In the future, the organizers should consider enhancing the credibility of the attraction by adopting the same rule that the Texas Department of Agriculture just approved for wine labels. To carry the ‘Go Texan’ logo the wine must be made from at least 75% Texas grapes.
Postscript: What I Asked The WineriesDear Texas Winery: I came across your name on the list of wineries planning to serve wine in the “Wine Garden” at this year’s Texas State Fair. We are planning to cover this event for our readers so perhaps I could ask you a couple of questions relevant to one of my articles.. Will all of your wines that you serve in the wine garden be at least 75% Texas grapes? If not, then… a) if are they labelled as “For Sale In Texas Only” or by the appellation that the grapes come from (e.g. American)? b) Did you make the wines that have less than 75% Texas fruit or did you buy/blend out-of-state wines? Please do not hesitate to provide more details in your reply if you wish. Many thanks, Andrew Chalk