Published Works of
Thomas M. Ciesla





it's coming down raisins:
these days shriveled is in

By: Thomas M. Ciesla
Originally published in; December, 2000
Article has been reformatted for online publishing

Raisin Wine In Texas



As the door to the 3rd Millennium opens before us, Texas winemakers are rediscovering a wine production technique associated with the celebrated wines of antiquity.   Dried grape wines are naturally sweeter, intense and complex; made by either allowing the grapes to raisin on the vine, or by picking them at the proper ripeness and drying them out.




Having learned how to create wine from dried grapes from inhabitants of Asia Minor, the ancient Greeks went on to perfect these vinification techniques in the 8th century BC.   The stems of grape clusters were twisted to prevent sap from reaching the grapes, causing them to shrivel.   Another technique was to pick grapes and dry them out in the sun on racks.   Depending on the varietal, the grapes would lose between 40-60% of their water.   Wines produced from these grapes were rich, larger-than-life, benefiting from years of maturation, and were prized by ancient writers such as Homer, Cato, Pliny and Virgil.   The early robustness of raisin wines the need to "loose their teeth" -- is indicative of their longevity, critical in an era before the invention of stoppered bottles.

Like the Greeks, Roman explorers planted vineyards wherever they went.   As a result, dried grape winemaking techniques became embedded into the complex fabric of vinification traditions in France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, and England.   These wines flourished from the 13th to 17th centuries, especially in Italy and France, but today the practice survives only in isolated European enclaves.   Italy alone appears to have an unbroken tradition of raisin wine, often produced at only the best estates around Tuscany, Trentino and Umbria.




California supplies half of the world's raisins, 95% of which are made from Thompson Seedless grapes.   Most people know little about raisins beyond the clever marketing campaign featuring the infamous Singing California Raisins.

The fact that you could make wine from raisins was considered taboo in promoting sales of raisins until 1970. That year the Raisin Advisory Board organized an American Raisin Vintners Guild, and began selling home-winemaking kits for raisins in order to bolster declining sales. A few years later sales of raisins rapidly increased, and California wines gained national and international recognition.   Coincidentally, the subject of raisin wine seemed to, well, shrivel away.








In 1998, you could be arrested for making and selling raisin wine in Texas!   The following year, the 76th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1676 which removed 'dried grapes, dried fruits or dried berries', from the list of prohibited items in Section 101.65 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code.  This legislature was passed due to the diligent lobbying efforts of Shawn and Rocko Bruno.   Shawn Bruno and Gary George are co-owners of Bruno and George Wines,Inc. in Sour Lake, Texas. Part of their goal in establishing their winery was to be able to produce their grandfather's favorite traditional Sicilian wine made from raisins.   In 2001, Bruno and George Wines will offer their Raisin Wine a big, bold dessert wine, and Raisin Limited, which is slightly lighter in character.





Comfort Cellars in Comfort, Texas is planning to offer a raisin wine in 2001, after an experimental batch created for fun received accolades from friends.   The brother and sister team of Cathy and Bob Winmill, trace their interest in dried grape wine back to generations of family winemaking.



Raisin wine can be treated like any other dessert wine. Enjoy them on their own or with your favorite dessert.



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Last Update 11/5/2001

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Grapevine Scholars

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The authors strive to keep the Texas Wine Trails website as accurate as possible. However, in an industry as dynamic as the Texas wine industry, change comes fast and often. From time-to-time some information may be inadvertently outdated. Please check with the wineries before visiting and verify all event dates.