A few observations based on a weekend visit to the Hill Country. I ?ll be in west Texas in a month or so, and should have a solid overview of what ?s going on with the 2008 harvest.
? Grapes ? and especially quality grapes ? are in short supply. This has sent prices soaring, and some wineries are paying two to three times what they paid just a couple of years ago.
? Also sending prices upward is increased demand. The state has 163 wineries, up 300 percent this decade. Plus, those wineries are making more wine than ever, putting more pressure on the supply. Meanwhile, grape acreage has increased just 28 percent since 2002.
? Expect to see some of those wineries fail this year and next, since 163 is almost certainly too many for the market to support. In addition, since grape prices are so high, many wineries won ?t be able to get grapes they can profitably turn into wine.
? Most of the people I talked to said the quality of the grapes is good, but that there aren ?t enough of them. The 2007 vintage was close to a disaster in both the Hill Country and west Texas, and though 2008 is better, hail storms in the spring hurt crop yields.
? The next big debate in Texas will be whether to use non-Texas grapes to make wine. Both sides have valid arguments; I ?ll have a few thoughts after I get back from west Texas.