Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS -


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 said, 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 it does not 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,” Brun­drett said. He said 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.”

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