When you think of wine-producing areas, your first thought is probably not of Texas. However, Texas has some important history in wine grape production.
We lay claim that Franciscan priests established the first vineyard in North America in our great state. However, the Texas wine industry didn’t really begin on a commercial scale until the late 1970s.
Today, Texas is the number 7 wine grape producer in the U.S. and number 5 on wine production.
Grapes are often grown in vineyards scattered around the country and then brought to a winery. If you want to impress your friends, you can let them know that the cultivation of grapes is viticulture and enology is the study of winemaking.
But before we leave the history of wine and Texas, I must mention T.V. Munson of Denison. Mr. Munson was seriously interested in grapes and he traveled for over 30 years and 50,000 miles through 40 states making detailed notes on over 1,000 native grapevines including the 13 native grapes of Texas. This was in 1880-1910, when travel was by horse, train, and foot.
In addition to classifying grapes, he bred the different varieties to create exceptional cultivars. He sold these successful cultivars across the country. All of this is noteworthy enough, but T.V. Munson’s greatest contribution is saving the French wine industry.
In 1868, France had more than 6 million acres of vineyards destroyed by a plant louse. Munson had developed grape hybrid rootstock that was resistant to the plant louse so the French wine industry requested his assistance. His vines were sent to Europe and were grafted with their vines, which was able to resist the insect and restore grape production. So grateful, in 1888 the French government sent a delegation to Denison to honor him with the French Legion of Honor.
Now, the wine industry in Texas is growing rapidly with over 35 new wineries starting up in 2015 and over 1,000 acres of grapes coming into production this year. There are eight wine growing regions of Texas or American Viticulture Area (AVA), the Texoma area being one of them.
To address the needs of this growing industry, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has created more program specialists in viticulture. We are fortunate to have one of these new specialists, Michael Cook, housed in our office.
On March 4, Michael will be one of our featured speakers for a prospective horticultural enterprises workshop. The class will be held at the Extension office from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the registration is $15. Michael will address “Considerations for Starting Wine Grape Production.”
We will also have Steve Upson, a soils and crops consultant with the Noble Foundation talking about “Pecans and Other Small Fruit Enterprise Options.”
If you are interested in starting a horticulture business in fruits or nuts, this will be the class for you. Hobbyists and backyard gardeners might find it interesting and of course are welcome to attend.
To register for this class, contact our office at 940.349.2883. For more information, visit denton.agrilife.org.
Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status.
The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating