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Grape Expectations

Simply Suzanne | { 06.29.15 }

In the last few years, the United States has overtaken France and Italy as the largest wine consuming country in the world, and increasingly, Americans are drinking wine made in America. Although California still dominates wine production in the US, Texas and New Mexico have become significant wine producers in their own right in recent decades.

Interestingly, both New Mexico and Texas are home to some of the earliest viticulture efforts in this country, pre-dating vineyards in California by at least a century. In the 1600s, Spanish priests planted wine grapes along the Rio Grande River in order to make sacramental wines. By 1880, a Socorro, New Mexico newspaper reported that over 3,000 acres of wine grapes had been planted in the area, and wineries were producing a million gallons of wine annually. The Val Verde Winery in Del Rio, Texas, started by an Italian immigrant in 1883, has been continually operating since its inception.

cluster of grapes

Although the hot, sunny climate common to New Mexico and Texas were conducive to growing wine grapes, early vineyards and wine makers faced daunting obstacles, some of which had nothing to do with the usual vagaries of agriculture. While Mother Nature played a role making life difficult for the vintners (flooding along the Rio Grande hampered production of the early wineries in the latter part of the 19th century), it was Prohibition—in place from 1920 to 1933—that caused the industry to falter. As public opinion changed and legal sanctions were imposed, many wineries were forced to close. The aforementioned Val Verde Winery was able to stay in business by focusing solely on communion wine. “In 1900,” said Carol Kull, former Executive Director of the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, “twenty-five wineries called Texas home, yet only one (Val Verde Winery in West Texas) survived Prohibition.”

It was not until the late 1970s that the wine industry in New Mexico and Texas began again on a commercial scale. Since then, helped by softening governmental regulations and changing public tastes, wine has regained a solid foothold in the agricultural landscape of both states. The New Mexico Wine Growers Association website lists close to 50 wineries spread around the state and production is expanding by 10 to 15 percent annually. There are currently 4,400 acres of vineyard and 273 wineries (as of January 18, 2013) operating in Texas, and the number continues to grow, according to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. The economic impact is in the billions of dollars.

The future looks bright for the wine industry in both New Mexico and Texas and the growing of wine grapes offers new opportunities for farmers in both states.




Very interesting !