2016 brought big changes to Texas Monthly’s “Top Texas Wines of the Year.” Writer and Certified Sommelier Jessica Dupuy, who has been compiling the Top Texas Wines of the Year list for 6 years, discusses why she decided it was time expand the efforts from a yearly list to quarterly.
Talking Texas' Top Wines with Jessica Dupuy
“I found that being able to evaluate all the wines only at the end of the year was too challenging because there are more and more wines each year to talk about,” Dupuy said. “Once a year was too limiting and it was too common for the best wines to be released earlier in the year, only to be sold out by the time the list was released, leaving the readers out of luck.”
Expanding the list has served to benefit both the Texas wine producers and the consumers looking for more. Quarterly lists give the participating wineries more time and more options for being included, allowing them to submit more wines. Previously, producers were only able to submit a total of 6 wines per year, now they can submit up to 16 wines per year. Because some wineries make more wine each year, this has broadened the base.
“The Texas wine industry is getting better and better each year,” Dupuy said. “Expanding the list is a reflection of that. There is more great wine to talk about.” Each list features 15-20 wines and Dupuy and her team tasted 400 wines in 2016 (compared to approximately 150 in previous years).
Expanding the list has also provided more opportunity for newcomers or smaller labels to appear. “I try to stay up to date to those new to the game,” Dupuy said. “It’s exciting to unmask a wine and discover it’s a new producer you haven’t heard of previously, to say, ‘Wow! I wasn’t expecting that.’” The process has also opened Dupuy and readers up to entirely new regions making wine throughout Texas.
While the list has expanded, the process of choosing the wines has maintained the same integrity. Between each evaluation, Dupuy collects the wines and immediately bags them to keep their bottles and labels hidden. She is joined by Certified Sommeliers (often Advanced or Master), although the scoring is all done by Dupuy. The additional tasters ensure that the process has integrity.
They taste the whites while the reds are given a chance to breathe. Dupuy doesn’t pour and, in fact, leaves the room. She is so familiar with Texas wines that she can identify most bottles by even the smallest details. The group tastes ten wines at a time and there is no talking during the evaluation. Once all the wines have been tasted and scored, the highest scoring wines are compiled and the labels are revealed.
Creating the Texas Monthly “Top Texas Wines of the Year” list is an extension of Dupuy’s wine journey. As a writer for Texas Monthly, she was given the assignment to discover if there is a story to tell about the Texas wine industry. Simultaneously, Dupuy was studying to become a Certified Sommelier. “I wanted to stay ingrained in what is happening in the wine world in general,” Dupuy said. “It helps with the context of Texas’ wine journey. I know what wine is like around the world, so it helps me appreciate the evolution of Texas wine. There is a story to be told and always a great wine to be tasted.”
Dupuy said that an grand tasting opportunity like Toast & Roast is a great way to sample through the many offerings of Texas wine. “The event shows you where to begin,” Dupuy said. “We give all the wines a fair shake. If you want to spend time on Texas wine, start with these wines.”
Additionally, the food component of Toast & Roast has grown to reflect the growth of Texas wine. This year, the afternoon will feature five chefs preparing small plates to sample along with the wine. Dupuy believes that Texas wine and food go hand-in-hand naturally. “We are finding that the style of Texas wine leans toward Old World style, less fruit forward, more acidity, more earthiness,” Dupuy said. “These wines lend themselves to working well with food, especially Texas food, which has a variety of flavors. You can always find a Texas wine that bring out the best in your food.”
About Jessica Dupuy:
Jessica Dupuy is a freelance writer who keeps a pulse on food, drink and travel. Her writing credits include work for National Geographic Traveler, Imbibe, Texas Monthly, Texas Highways, Fodor’s Travel Publications, and numerous Austin publications. She has also written Uchi: The Cookbook, in conjunction with James Beard Award winning Executive Chef Tyson Cole; The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family and Love on the iconic Texas barbecue restaurant; and the Jack Allen's Cookbook on the famed Austin farm-to-table Texas home-cooking restaurant. She recently completed her fourth book on Texas Cuisine for Southern Living entitled The United Tastes of Texas. (Release March 2016).
A graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, Dupuy’s favorite writing pursuits include: food, wine, and travel. In her regular coverage of Texas wine, beer and spirits for Texas Monthly magazine, she’s discovered a deeper passion for the world of all things fermented and distilled. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators.