Texas Hill Country AVA Harvest Report 2019

Texas Hill Country AVA Harvest Report 2019

After a highly successful year in 2018, the 2019 Texas Hill Country AVA harvest was even better than expected — particularly with regards to the quality of the grapes. More than fifty grape varieties grow in Texas, with the majority being reds.

Although Texas grapes have a long history, the local modern wine industry is concentrated in key regions. These include the High Plains AVA, which produces over 80 percent of the state’s wine grapes — as well as the Texas Hill Country AVA, which is the largest grape-growing region in the state. These areas are two out of eight American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Texas.

This Year’s Harvest Ran Later Than Usual

Grapes and the wines they produce have now become a core part of Texas-based culture. During the 2019 season, there were 588 wineries, making Texas the fifth-ranked based on the number of wineries. This number is up from less than 300 just a decade ago.

Numerous Texas-based wineries harvested the majority of their grapes from central Texas, as well as the Texas Hill Country. Many growers and wineries agree that this year’s harvest is high in quality. Although the total yields vary from one region and vineyard to the next, overall, there was a slight decrease in yields compared to previous years — which was anticipated, based on windy, wet spring conditions.

Once again, harvest times and yields vary across the state, yet overall, the 2019 harvest began a few weeks later than normal. This was based on abnormally cool temperatures throughout the early part of the growing season, resulting in a delayed harvest in regards to specific grape varieties. Based on these cooler temperatures, many winemakers also agree that this year’s grapes offer a fantastic balance of acids.

In general, wineries across the state of Texas were several weeks behind schedule due to the cooler spring and early-summer temperatures that were followed by hot, dry temperatures.

When grapes were harvested for wine production depended on the vineyard and varietal. After all, across the 17+ million acres associated with Hill Country and High Plains, there are fascinating differences between soil types, weather patterns, and topographies.

Flat Creek Estate Winery, for example, began to harvest Sangiovese in mid-August in the Hill Country AVA, while Bingham Family Vineyards began harvest in the High Plains AVA. Another example comes from Pedernales Cellars, who brought in their last lot of grapes early in September, instead of the usual mid-August harvest.

Quality Exceeded Expectations Based on Key Challenges

In early August, it appeared as though yields would be lower than previous years, due to less than ideal conditions. However, based on the quality of this year’s grapes, this year’s harvest brings the promise of exceptional wines.

Due to heavy rainfall in the spring and again in the fall, producers faced numerous pressures, including disease from varying pathogens, as well as mold. Those who did not stay on top of these pressures, may not have been as successful as anticipated. Once again, this is often linked to conditions such as soil type — requiring a lot of care and in many cases, a little luck. High Country alone, has 58 different soil types. When other variables and challenges are considered, this can complicate the growing season.

It’s important to note that although a wet, cloudy spring resulted in less fruit on the vines, this meant that more energy was put into each grape — resulting in grapes that were much higher in quality than anticipated. The cooler temperatures this year kept the pH levels low, and good sugar content levels were also achieved. This is what’s known as the grape’s Brix, which was impacted by slow ripening, following rising temperatures in June.

In summary, growers and Texas vineyards experienced many challenges related to the environment during 2019, which initially led to concerns. However, wineries agree that the quality of the fruit from 2019 is incredibly high. Although yields were slightly lower, the potential for 2019 wines is exciting in regards to the unique, quality grapes grown and harvested this year.

This is a prime example of when quality trumps quantity, as growers and wineries agree — this year’s vintage will be classified as “excellent.”