George Ray McEachern, Larry A. Stein, Nancy Roe and Jim Kamas
Texas A&M University
January 27, 1997
The new Texas wine industry has prospered well since its rebirth in the early 1970’s. Growers in all areas of the state have planted vineyards with great success. Charm, challenge, and fun have overpowered many viticultural necessities every grower must learn and accomplish. Start small; wine growing is the ultimate test for wanting and knowing what to do versus being able to do it.
Texas has the greatest diversity of climate of any commercial wine region in the world. Hot/cold, wet/dry, freeze, hail, wind, rain, and high light intensity all contribute to the challenge of Vinifera culture. Despite the weather, Vinifera has been grown in all but south and east Texas.
Grapes grow in many soils; high or low pH, shallow or deep, sandy or clay. However, vine soil must always be well drained. The vineyard spacing, training, pruning, and trellis system needs to match the soil influence on vine vigor. Acid soils require lime, while high ph soils may require FerCal or 41B rootstocks to correct iron chlorosis. Vineyards in high soil pH are prone to Cotton Root Rot.
Growers with plans for a winery need to be in a “wet” area for retail sales. Water and air drainage, diseases, predators, roads, weather, labor, equipment, laws and electricity are important. Two acre inches of salt free irrigation water must be available for each acre of vines to be planted.
Vinifera grapes grow well in central, north and west Texas. LeNoir and Blanc duBois need to be grown south of Fredericksburg and Del Rio and east of Austin and Paris. North of Plainview, freeze limits varieties to Riesling and Chardonnay. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc freeze if planted north of Lubbock. Clones need to exhibit high yield and freeze tolerance.
Far north Texas growers may need Cynthiana or hybrids because of freeze and disease resistance.
Own-root vines are rapidly established after a freeze; therefore, rootstocks should be used only if a specific need exists. In deep sand SO4 or 5C could be used for nematode control. In high pH soil FerCal or 41B could be used for preventing iron chlorosis. R110 is a good drought/heat tolerant root. Hotwater treated Champanel may be used for Cotton Root Rot.
Mechanical harvesting is the key to the future in Texas. A high wire Single Curtain is a low cost system, can give high yields, and is adapted to mechanical pruning and harvesting. Bilateral Cordon has been used well for 20 years. Vertical Shoot Positioning (VSP) on both wide or close spacing is used for top quality fruit, but it is expensive to establish and manage with no increase in yield. Quadrilateral Lyre for vigorous soil is a large VSP system which can give both yield and quality. High density Guyot VSP used in Europe must be limited to low vigor soil in Texas.