Sustainability and the Emergence of the Texas Wine Industry: An Exploration of the Transitional Moments with a Focus on the Hill Country and High Plains Region
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The Texas wine industry dates back to the 17th century when the first grape vines were planted by Spanish missionaries (Crain & Crain, 2013). Although wine has a long history in Texas, the commercial industry was relatively dormant until recently. As of 2019, Texas is home to over 500 wineries and 350 vineyards, with over 5,000 acres bearing grapes (Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, 2020). Given the geographic scale of Texas wine-growing region, I will focus on the two largest AVAs in this study and apply a sustainability lens (economic, environmental, and social transitions) to improve our understanding of how these “fermented landscapes” (Myles, 2020) have evolved with a primary focus on the last three decades. The Hill Country AVA in Texas meets the demands of tourists better than the High Plains AVA and is home to the majority of wine production, however the region only produces a tiny fraction of the overall grapes being used for wine production in the state. Despite the lack of vineyards, the Hill Country AVA represents the truest “wine country” in the state, in the cultural sense, wherein visitors have the chance to taste and visit the wineries where production occurs, while the High Plains AVA is more focused on winegrape growing versus winemaking. Through a mixed method approach, this research explores the geography of wine production in Texas, taking into account the environmental, economic, and social differences (the pillars of sustainability) between the predominant grape growing regions versus the leading wine producing regions. Texas carves out a unique wine identity and strengthens its place in wider wine culture. New methods and education are being used to overcome obstacles the Texas wine industry faces to produce high quality wine (Williams, 2020). This period of transition takes the Texas wine industry as a whole to the next level when compared to established wine regions like California or Oregon.