Proposed Bill for Texas Wine Stirs Up Controversy

AUSTIN, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - On Monday, Texas lawmakers will take up a bill that would require a wine marketed as “Texas wine” to be made with 100 percent Texas grapes, rather than 75 percent under current law.

State Representative Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, says his legislation, House Bill 1514, is about authenticity.

“There are some large wineries in the state of Texas that use blending of other grapes from out of state, because those grapes are less expensive,” Isaac said. “And I say if we are selling a Texas wine, it should be a Texas wine and not a Texa-fornia wine.”

Chris Brundrett is the co-owner of William Chris Vineyards in Central Texas. He says what sets him apart from his competitors is that every grape he uses to make his wine is made in Texas.

“People don't believe that we are 100% Texas grown and that's frustrating and that is going to hold us back,” Brundrett said. “We want the opportunity to play and work and compete on a national and international scale with authentic agriculture.”

Brundrett says he supports the proposed legislation because he wants his customers to truly get a taste of what Texas tastes like.

“Our customers trust us incredibly because they want to know what high Texas tastes like,” Brundrett said. “They want to know what 15 minutes north of Fredericksburg tastes like.  They want to know what Fort Davis tastes like.”

Isaac says he has received mixed feedback regarding HB 1514. He says he is working to get a consensus now that includes a five year phase in for wineries get reach the 100 percent.

Katy Jane Seaton with the High Plains Winegrowers Association says initially HPWA was neutral about the bill. HPWA wrote a letter to Rep. Isaac suggesting several revisions, including changing the wording to 95 percent instead of 100.

“If you read our original statement on the issues of #HB1514 we chose neutrality due to the audience makeup being comprised of our entire client list. Yet, as growers, how can we not support an increase?” Seaton said. “It's no industry secret at this point this legislation was brought about improperly, is wrought with issues and has caused people to behaving in such a polarizing manner.  Relationships both personal and professional may never be repaired.”

Seaton says the bill has split the industry. She says 100 percent is not practical in the time frame, as the original bill was written.

“It's why we chose 95 percent,” Seaton said. “The passionate supporters behind HB1514 elected to move it to their original hot button agenda of 100 percent. Thus creating a legislative piece we can not support. It's rough on everybody counterproductive and burns political capital agricultural can't afford.”

The House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee is set to hear the bill Monday morning following the House adjournment.



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