Should "made in Texas" mean 100 percent Texas grapes? Texas grap - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Should "made in Texas" mean 100 percent Texas grapes? Texas grape growers split on wine bill

Barrels of wine at William Chris Vineyards in Hye, Texas, on Feb. 22, 2017.  Erika Rich for The Texas Tribune Barrels of wine at William Chris Vineyards in Hye, Texas, on Feb. 22, 2017. Erika Rich for The Texas Tribune

HYE — Chris Brundrett sat in a barn surrounded by barrels of wine he helped curate and swirled a glass of water in his hand, perhaps imagining it was something else.

Brundrett, accompanied by others from the state’s wine industry, drove home his pitch: "If we can just pump out wine from California and slap a picture of the Alamo or a longhorn on it and sell it," he said, should wineries be able to put a "made in Texas" label on it? 

A co-owner and winemaker at William Chris Vineyards between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, Brundrett was explaining why he backed House Bill 1514 by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, which would require that wines with a Texas label be made only with Texas-grown grapes.

Under federal law, wine can have an appellation of origin from a state if a minimum 75 percent of its grapes are grown in that state. The other 25 percent can come from anywhere. 

"I believe having something labeled as Texas should be from Texas," Isaac told the Tribune, adding that his bill would encourage more Texas grape production.

Last year Texas produced about 3.8 million gallons of wine, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and the state had more than 400 active permits to bottle, produce and sell wine. A separate study in 2015 found the wine industry contributed more than $2 billion to the state's economy. 

Grape growers and vineyard owners are scattered on the labeling issue. Paul Bonarrigo, co-owner of Messina Hof Winery, the state's third-largest wine producer in 2016, said he was opposed to the measure, and the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association said they don't back Isaac's bill, either.

Brian Heath, owner of Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg, said the bill could help the industry down the road, but if it passed now, he said it would limit winemakers' options during unexpected events — like when strong Texas storms ruin grape crops. “You can’t predict what you can’t predict,” he said. 

Others in the industry believe Isaac's proposal would increase transparency and accountability and improve the authenticity of the state's wines.

"We're not the wine police," said Brundrett, adding that regardless of whether HB 1514 passed, wineries would still have the right to produce and blend wine however they wished — as long as they were accurately labeled.

"But it's an uphill battle because there are already other wineries who have come through and tried to pull wool over people's eyes," he said. 

Back at the Capitol, Isaac said that while 100 percent Texas wine was the goal, some in the industry contend that it might be too challenging to use only Texas grapes by September when the bill would go into effect if passed.

Isaac said he would look into offering an amended version of HB 1514 that would phase in the change, with benchmarks at 80 or 90 percent before requiring 100 percent Texas grapes. Isaac also said his bill would allow the Texas Department of Agriculture to allow exceptions to the threshold if severe weather or drought damaged state grape crops.

Regardless, Brundrett said he was happy to see discussion on the issue.

"This bill is getting the conversation rolling," he said. "It’s an idea that’s been presented, and I hope in the next couple of months we see some greater participation from the consumers, growers and winemakers." 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2017/03/09/wine-story/.

Texas Tribune mission statement

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Copyright 2017 KCBD. All rights reserved.
 

  • Local News on KCBD.comNewsMore>>

  • Free Lubbock fishing event for families on Sat. April 29, 2017

    Free Lubbock fishing event for families on Sat. April 29, 2017

    Friday, April 28 2017 5:54 PM EDT2017-04-28 21:54:22 GMT
    Lubbock Lions' KidsFish event takes place on Saturday (Source: Lubbock Lions Club)Lubbock Lions' KidsFish event takes place on Saturday (Source: Lubbock Lions Club)

    A Lubbock lake is now stocked with Channel Catfish just in time for a free family-friendly fishing event hosted by the Lubbock Lions Club.  

    A Lubbock lake is now stocked with Channel Catfish just in time for a free family-friendly fishing event hosted by the Lubbock Lions Club.  

  • Congress settles for stopgap to avoid government shutdown

    Congress settles for stopgap to avoid government shutdown

    Friday, April 28 2017 5:49 PM EDT2017-04-28 21:49:56 GMT
    Friday, April 28 2017 5:49 PM EDT2017-04-28 21:49:56 GMT

    President Donald Trump seems destined to serve his 100th day in office without House passage of a Republican health care bill or enactment of a budget financing the government for the rest of this year.

    President Donald Trump seems destined to serve his 100th day in office without House passage of a Republican health care bill or enactment of a budget financing the government for the rest of this year.

  • Trump tells NRA: 'You have a true friend' in White House

    Trump tells NRA: 'You have a true friend' in White House

    Friday, April 28 2017 5:49 PM EDT2017-04-28 21:49:51 GMT
    Friday, April 28 2017 5:49 PM EDT2017-04-28 21:49:51 GMT
    President Donald Trump to become the first sitting president to address a National Rifle Association convention in more than 30 years.
    President Donald Trump to become the first sitting president to address a National Rifle Association convention in more than 30 years.
Powered by Frankly