Our exposure to Texas is, well, remote at best. Weirdly, most of it boils down to Pierre’s French upbringing. Really. There was a lunch at grandma’s house with one of Pierre’s dad’s cousins. Much of the Vietnamese family (dad’s side) left Vietnam throughout the 60s and 70s and landed in various part of the world. The cousin was visiting from the Houston branch. With his jeans, white shirt, and sleek cowboy boots that included a secret inside pocket for a backup credit card (in case of theft during business travel to foreign countries, he explained), this guy was the most American person Pierre had ever met at the time. But even earlier than that, there was also TV. Like countless French people, Pierre’s mom occasionally watched a TV show you probably know, Dallas. Remember the theme song? Well, guess what, the French version is not only different, it has LYRICS! That’s right. And not just any lyrics. They are extraordinary. Seriously, you have to see this.
Don’t worry if you don’t speak French, a witty Texan writer wrote about this when she found out, and provided a rough translation. Here’s a sample:
Dallas, home of the oil dollar,
Dallas, you do not know pity;
Dallas, the revolver is your idol,
Dallas, you cling to the past.
What do you think?
How do wine regions develop their image? It’s a difficult problem for emerging regions that few people know. Two years ago, as we were checking in for a medical appointment, the nurse asked us what we do, and we mentioned our Chinese wine research. She paused. “Wait, what?! You know, when you think about wine, you think more about California or Washington.” We replied: “Yes, for sure, or Idaho.” (Pierre had just visited). She paused again. “Wait! They make wine in Idaho?” That seemed even more surprising to her than China.
Through random encounters, news, and pop culture, people come to associate places with certain ideas. And for many, many French people from our parents’ and our generation, we bet that Dallas was their main (and likely only) exposure to Texas. So, le vin du Texas, well, that’s not exactly on everybody’s radar. From the work of Michelle Williams and interviews we have seen, it seems like an uphill battle in the US market too, including locally. “We still have people who say ‘What? We make wine in Texas?’” the owner of Spicewood Vineyards told Williams in an interview. But little by little, one happy drinker at the time, Texas wine is rising.
Leaning about le vin du Texas
Since we’re celebrating Cynthia’s freshly acquired French citizenship (she picked up her certificate yesterday!), we decided to search for Texas wine info en français, to see what we find. Good news: there were no Dallas references in sight.
On the Texas page of the Petit Futé, a popular brand of travel guide books, the link to “Produits Gourmands” features thirteen ideas, including the winery Becker Vineyards from Texas Hill Country. The review is pretty good, here’s a translation: “The Becker brand is rising in the region. French tasters will especially appreciate the Cabernet Franc, reserve 2005.”
In 2015, readers of the wine section of Le Figaro (a major French newspaper), learned about “the hidden side of American wine”. We learn that Texas is “the state that saved France from Phylloxera,” and that despite some serious climate challenges, there are “very pretty,” “delicious,” “generous and bursting with fruit” wines. The writer, Jean-Baptiste Ancelot, just published a new book called Wine Explorers, covering wine in the whole world. So French people who receive the book as a holiday gift this season will learn something about Texas wine, and tons of other fascinating places (Gabon, anyone?).
And last but not least, there’s the French TripAdvisor site, with a good list of Texas wineries, and truly raving reviews from French visitors. This includes the winery that graciously provided us with samples for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW), Spicewood Vineyards. French tourists appreciated not only the wines, but also the hospitality. “You’ll love this Texas wine establishment,” said one of our compatriots.
Our first Texas wines with some of our everyday meals
Spicewood Vineyards sent a generous box of samples for this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend Texas-theme event. Check out the links to the Wine Pairing Weekend crew’s explorations of Texas wines and what they ate with them! Other than the samples, we didn’t receive any compensation and all opinions are our own.
Frankly, we’d be grateful for the opportunity just for putting the French Dallas theme song back on our radar. But we enjoyed the wines, too! We have a soft spot for emerging wine regions with reputations to build. Spicewood’s emphasis on vineyard work, the hardest part in emerging regions, is impressive.
Busy with work commitments, we didn’t have time to overthink the food. So armed with the trusty Coravin, we got to enjoy Texas wine with weeknight meals.
We had frozen duck broth from a previous duck extravaganza, mushrooms, some (pre-tariff!) Parmigiano-Reggiano, and we always have Arborio rice in the pantry. The Instant Pot makes risotto a fuss-free affair. We picked up salmon, and voila, we had a great match for Spicewood Vineyard’s Sauvignon Blanc.
A few days later, it was time for another quick meal using the Instant Pot (hard to believe we were skeptical of this last year when we got it as a surprise gift). This time, we made pork spareribs and rice in black bean sauce. The combination of garlic, ginger and black bean sauce really works. Just marinate the spareribs, then put in Instant Pot, then rice, water, close, and and start. That’s it!
And it worked great with all three reds we received from Spicewood Vineyards. We really enjoyed the freshness in all three wines.
Thanks to good acidity, wines that could have otherwise easily turned out heavy. The Syrah was bright with notes of blueberries and pepper, and the food really brought out the fruit in this wine. Tenny Wren, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, was good too, though our least favorite of the three, as the heat of alcohol came through a bit higher than we like. That said, that wouldn’t bother many of our friends. Our favorite was the Good Guy, a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, with dark fruit profile, medium + tannin, refreshing acidity, a touch of oak that doesn’t steal the show. We’re always a bit afraid that flagship wines in an emerging region end up heavy on the new oak, and that didn’t happen at all with the Good Guy. This wine was quite elegant.
The good thing is that since we used Coravin, we’ll be able to share the Texas wine fun with family and friends as the holiday season approaches. Many experiments to be had, and we’ll be sure to report on social media.
In fact, we already had another sip, this time with Vietnamese braised pork and eggs (thịt kho, also made in the Instant Pot!). Which reminds us we’d like to explore some pairings with Texas style Vietnamese food, which we just read about and sounds fascinating.
OK, we can’t bear to leave you without the live version of the French Dallas theme song. Nothing like old-fashioned lip sync in costume.
Thank you so much to Spicewood Vineyards for sending us samples and giving us our first taste of Texas wine. Thanks to Michelle Williams for coordinating, and Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla for hosting the Twitter Chat. If you read this in time, join us on Twitter (#WinePW) on Saturday November 9, 8am PST. See what the Wine Pairing Weekend crew members have in store below.
- A Taste of Texas Wines by ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- A TexMex Fiesta featuring Texas Tannat by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Don’t Mess with Texas: Two Reds from Bending Branch Winery Paired with Sliders by Wine Predator
- Low and Slow Grilling with Texas Wines by FoodWineClick!
- Oven Roasted Sirloin Steak with Onion Sauce and Texas Wine by Cooking Chat
- Pedernales Cellars: Pairing Texas Fine Wine with Spice 3 Ways by Asian Test Kitchen
- Rooting for Emerging Wine Regions: Celebrating Texas Wine With Our Everyday Meals by the Traveling Wine Profs
- Slow Cooker Short Rib Ragù with Texas Montepulciano by Always Ravenous
- Spicewood Vineyards: A Taste of Texas for #WinePW by The Swirling Dervish
- Texas Connections, Beef Flautas, and Bending Branch’s Tannat by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- #Texasfinewine Pedernales GSM, Rose, Viognier with Dim Sum by Chinese Food and Wine Pairings
- The Texas Wine Party Continues with Fall Creek Vineyards by The Corkscrew Concierge
- Tuscan Farro With Texan Vermentino by Avvinare
- Uh, oh! My Texas Wine Craves Barbecue by My Full Wine Glass