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How Low Yields Are Spurring Texas Winemakers’ Creativity

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“Towards the beginning of the year, we were extremely optimistic,” says Akhil Reddy, CEO of Reddy Vineyards in the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), of 2022. “But it’s been another roller coaster.”

Eighty-five percent of Texas wine grapes are grown in the state’s High Plains AVA. However, 2022’s harvest presented multiple challenges, including relentless heat, drought, high winds and other cumulative environmental factors, to name a few. For many growers, yields are down—and for some it’s as much as 60%.

Images Courtesy of Reddy Vineyards

Reddy explains that when yields are low, costs aren’t covered, which means it’s difficult to turn a profit. For smaller vineyards, economic consequences can be significant. “Even with insurance, it’s more to get you to break even,” says Reddy.

But wine producers are choosing to focus on the grapes they did manage to harvest. And Randy Hester, owner and winemaker of C.L. Butaud Wines in Austin, predicts the bottles to come from the 2022 harvest will be “hedonistically pleasurable.”

Here’s a look at some of the many factors that impacted Texas’ grapes and how winemakers are getting creative with what they have.

Relentless Heat and Drought

In mid-June and July, average temperatures in Lubbock in the Texas High Plains exceeded 100°F for more than thirty days, reports the National Weather Service, topping a record dating from 1940 for July. The National Weather Service describes Texas as “at the epicenter of the heat for July 2022,” while other regions in the South and West also saw “some of their warmest/hottest Julys.”

The initial June heat wave shocked the vines, explains Nikhila Narra Davis, co-owner of Narra Vineyards in the High Plains and Kalasi Cellars in Fredericksburg. As high temperatures persisted, vines concentrated their energy on supporting the existing crop load, instead of pushing out new growth.