by Andrew Chalk
Congratulations are in order! In 2014 Texas wines gave another telling demonstration of their continued march towards national recognition. They won more medals at major wine competitions than ever before. These competitions pitted Texas wines against the best from California, Washington, Oregon, Europe and Australia/New Zealand and they continued a trend that started as recently as 2011 of winning more contests than in the previous year.
The chart below plots the total number of medals won each year by Texas wines from 1984 (6 medals), on the extreme left, to 2014 (164 medals), on the extreme right at out-of-state wine competitions. Over 80% of the medals below were gained at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition, the Los Angeles International Wine Competition and the San Diego International Wine Competition. Two are actually from the Lyon International Wine Competition in France. All results are as reported by the wineries and cross-checked against published competition results. No distinction is made in this report between different ranks of medal (e.g. gold, silver or bronze).
The total number of medals awarded (vertical axis) oscillated around 30 from 1984 until 2011. In that year there is an inflexion point and the annual medal count shows exponential growth. While the relatively low number of medals in earlier years can be partly attributed to sketchy reporting, the main reason for the increase is a massive improvement in the quality of the wine. As noted above, the quality of the wine has improved beyond its external reputation. Wineries that would not have considered entering out-of-state competitions just five years ago (because of the small prospect of a medal) are now much more willing to bear the substantial costs (typically, over $100 per wine to enter and $300 per wine if you win a medal and the competition rules require winners to donate wine to a charity tasting). The result is far more medal wins.
The above chart actually understates the number of medals Texas wines win against out-of-state competition since it excludes in-state competitions, even though the major examples of those competitions are comprised, overwhelmingly, of out-of-state wines (the five major competitions in Texas are the Lone Star International Wine Competition, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Rodeo Uncorked International Wine Competition, the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition and San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Wine Competition). I estimate that Texas wines won at least as many medals at these shows as at the out-of-state shows, so omitting them actually biases the test against Texas wines and therefore strengthens the conclusions about the improvement in Texas wine quality.