Record Rainfalls Helped Texas Grapes Turn Water Into Wine

2015 was a year of flooding – from the Memorial Day deluge to the Halloween rains in Central Texas – but Texas grapes weathered the storm.

By Joy DiazJanuary 11, 2016 2:45 pm

Do you know how much the Texas economy depends on the weather? It can be upset by too much cold, too much heat, too little or too much water.

Texas agriculture alone accounts for about $20 billion each year. Some of that is grapes, wine grapes to be specific. Now, Texas wines may not yet have worldwide caché, but more than 35,000 acres of land in Texas produce grapes. Grapes are a delicate fruit – they need water, but too much can kill the plant.

With record rains in the state, viticulture specialists around the state are watching the plants closely. Jim Kamas, a grape specialist with Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension, says 2015 was a challenging year because of the Memorial Day floods, but “most growers came out good crops and good quality.”

Kamas says fall and winter rains usually don’t affect grapevines, especially if a grower has carefully selected the site with good drainage. “We like to have our ground charged with water,” he says.

The biggest weather challenge for grape-growers is spring frost. Grapevines, like other perennial crops, go through a dormant period,” he says. “If we have an untimely or a late spring frost, we lose crops.”

High rainfall can lead to fungi growths, but certain growing techniques can prevent their spread. “The best growers know how to handle them and the newer growers are learning from them,” Kamas says.

Though Texas wine is a burgeoning industry today, the country’s first vineyards were, in fact, in Texas, planted by Spanish missionaries near El Paso in the 17th century.

“The modern grape industry, after Prohibition, was a little slow to get started,” Kamas says, who began working in Texas vineyards in 1977. “But in the last twenty years, there’s been marked progress, in terms of growth and wine quality and amount of acreage.”