Report From TexSom 2012: “For Sale In Texas Only” Label on Wine Bottles Misleads Consumers

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Yesterday I attended TexSom, the international wine conference held at The Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving. At lunch I was seated at the same table with a woman named Lindsay (last name redacted) who runs a restaurant in Austin. She tells our table that buying local is critical in Austin. “Chains just don’t survive,” she said referring to restaurants.  I asked her whether the same spirit translated into consumer wine choices. After all, Austin is in the center of the Hill Country AVA (American Viticultural Area). “They don’t give a sh*t,” she shot back. Austin is weird. They love their local food movement, but apparently their aren’t many “vine huggers” in the area. Dees this mean Texas wine is lacking some credibility?

Oh you must go below to know.

Part of the problem stems from the usage of the words “For Sale In Texas Only.”  While the phrase may initially connote purity or exclusiveness, they imply the exact opposite. You will find the same phrase on bottles of wine made from grapes grown in California and front labels designed to convince you that the wine is from Texas. The sole purpose of the phrase is to conceal the origin of the grapes. It is an anti-consumer measure favored by people who want to import the cheapest fruit for mass-market wines and conceal the source of the grapes from consumers.

The problem is that these actions generate a reaction. Consumers smell the rat and stop buying California wine masquerading as Texas wine, and to save themselves the problem of discerning when wines are real Texas wines vs. fake Texas wines they stop buying Texas wines at all. According to Lindsay, that is what has happened in Austin.

For small Texas wineries striving for quality and using Texas grapes, this is a marketing nightmare . It makes it a lot harder for them to convey to consumers that they are committed to quality and make their wines entirely from Texas grapes. Certainly, with enough effort, small wineries can still survive, but this measure is something that makes their job harder.

The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association has a legislative agenda each year. They should make the abolition of the “For Sale In Texas Only” provision a priority as part of a campaign to promote clear labeling. Require state labeling to include the origin of the grapes. The result will be increased consumer faith in Texas labeling and willingness to try Texas wines. Texas wineries that want to use California fruit can still do so, but clearly label it as such.


  • I agree that the extensive use of ‘For sale in Texas only’ is damaging to our industry. At Pedernales Cellars, we are committed to making Texas wine from Texas grapes.

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  • Remember that FSITO is a loop hole in the Federal wine labeling law and NOT a state initiative. Texas could pass some more restrictive rules, but while we have a shortage of Texas grapes, it would not make much sense. It might be better to use “American Appellation” on those wines that can not meet standards for Texas appellation. This to me is much more clear than FSITO.

    Russ Kane

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  • While I am very certain that there must be wines out there labelled “For Sale in Kentucky Only” or “For Sale in Oklahoma Only” it makes me no more comfortable with “For Sale in Texas Only” than if the label said “I’m Not Telling You Where the Grapes Were Grown, Don’t Ask”.

    Alamosa Wine Cellars uses Texas grapes, mostly estate grown, almost exclusively and in that rare instance when there is out of state content the label carries an “American” appellation. We believe in appellations and varietal labeling simply because wine is the ultimate expression of the grape and where it is grown, one being no more important than the other.

    The only part of Andrew’s blog that I might take issue with is the assertion that it is an attempt by Texas wineries to cheap out on fruit sourcing. I think in most cases it is simply a matter of trying to keep the pipeline full and defend shelf space in the supermarket and megastore venues. Placements are a lot easier to keep than they are to get back once they are lost due to lack of supply.

    While I agree that the economics of being a large or very large winery in a state where the native grapes are in short supply makes out of state content is a near inevitability we still owe the customer the courtesy of an honest label. It is important to note here that I have no first hand knowledge of any tasting room staff at any winery knowingly misrepresenting the origin of a wine in any Texas winery tasting room. In retail establishments we may not be so lucky as even many in the trade are unaware of what FSITO means.

    Again I appreciate the efforts of Andrew, Russ Kane and others to call attention to this labeling subtlety and create an educated consumer base that at least has a shot at knowing something about what’s in the bottle they bought at the winery or supermarket.

    Jim Johnson, Co Owner/Winemaker
    Alamosa Wine Cellars
    Bend, TX

  • Bobby Cox

    Hey Russ, that grape shortage dodge just died. The assassin is the 2012 crop it’s a huge vintage.

  • At Brennan Vineyards, we use Texas grapes exclusively unless there is a shortage, such as occurred in 2009 when Texas lost 75% of its grapes due to a late freeze. When we do use non-Texas fruit, we are honest with the consumer and make no effort to deceive him or her. We feel that “Texas Wine” should be wine made in Texas from Texas grapes.