July 15, 2009
The Texas wine industry has quite a storied past.
In the 1860s Spanish missionaries began cultivating grapes near present day El Paso. In 1883, Frank Qualia founded the Val Verde Winery in Del Rio, the oldest bonded winery still in operation today.
Texas viticulturist Thomas Munson is credited with saving the European wine industry. Munson developed and delivered a Texas-grown resistant rootstock to European vineyards to help rebuild vineyards struck by the disease phylloxera. The French government presented Munson with the French Legion of Honor Chevalier du Mérite Agricole Award in 1888.
Munson later published Foundations of American Grape Culture, a handbook for U.S. grape growers.
Twenty-five wineries dotted the Texas landscape in 1900 but were closed in 1919 due to the federal prohibition of alcohol. Wineries reopened in 1933 when prohibition was repealed.
In 2005 the Texas Legislature passed a bill allowing the shipment of Texas wines within the state.
Texas’ modern day commercial wine grape industry took root in the 1970s. The wineries Llano Estacado in Lubbock and Fall Creek in Austin are credited with pioneering today’s wine industry.
The wine industry remains in its infancy with many novices entering the field. The industry needs time to become more successful, says Edward Hellman, viticulture professor and Extension specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Tech University. “The Texas wine industry has great potential,” Hellman said. “We’ve only scratched the surface in what the wine industry can achieve.”