2008 saw very high yields across wineries in much of the southern hemisphere, as a result of highly favorable climatic conditions. Although in many areas, these high yields brought with them something of a drop in overall quality, this could not be said for South Australia's wines, which were reportedly excellent. Indeed, the 2008 Shiraz harvest in South Australia is said to be one of the most successful in recent decades, and western Australia's Chardonnays are set to be ones to watch out for. New Zealand's Pinot Noir harvest was also very good, with wineries in Martinborough reportedly very excited about this particular grape and the characteristics it revealed this year.
Pinot Noir also grew very well in the United States, and was probably the most successful grape varietal to come out of California in 2008, with Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley delivering fantastic results from this grape. Elsewhere in United States, Washington State and Oregon had highly successful harvests in 2008 despite some early worries about frost.
However, it was France who had the best of the weather and growing conditions in 2008, and this year was one of the great vintages for Champagne, the MÃ©doc in Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence, with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes leading the way. Italy, too, shared many of these ideal conditions, with the wineries in Tuscany claiming that their Chianti Classicos of 2008 will be ones to collect, and Piedmont's Barberesco and Barolo wines will be recognized as amongst the finest of the past decade.
In southern Italy, and particularly the area of Salento in Puglia, some of the finest red wines are made from the Negroamaro grape, a dark colored grape which has a rather unique character, resulting in wines of singular quality and flavor The name 'Negroamaro' directly translates a 'black-bitter' in Italian, and the earthy bitterness of the grapes is something highly prized by vintners looking to make traditional and rustic red wines from this varietal. The grapes also have a highly aromatic character, and a strong set of fruit flavors which can often be a little overpowering. For this reason, the Negroamaro grape is most commonly used as a blending grape, adding body and flavor to weaker varietals. However, it is also used for very interesting single variety bottles, which are much loved in the region they are grown.
In the very south of Italy, in the heel of the country's 'boot', we find the beautiful and sun drenched region of Puglia. Puglian wines suffered from a poor reputation throughout much of the twentieth century, with the region being generally associated with mass produced wines, more concerned with bulk and quantity than the quality of the produce. However, the past decade has seen a concerted effort on the part of the vintners of Puglia to do away with the region's negative connotations, and Puglian wines have undergone something of a renaissance. With awards and acclaim being piled upon the region, there has never been a better time to explore these characterful, flavorful and deeply exciting wines, packed as they are with big, boisterous dark fruit flavors and interesting attributes.
Italy is recognised as being one of the finest wine producing countries in the world, and it isn't difficult to see why. With a vast amount of land across the country used primarily for vineyard cultivation and wine production, each region of Italy manages to produce a wide range of excellent quality wines, each representative of the region it is produced in. Any lover of Italian wines will be able to tell you of the variety the country produces, from the deliciously astringent and alpine-fresh wines of the northern borders, to the deliciously jammy and fruit-forward wines of the south and the Italian islands. Regions such as Barolo are frequently compared with Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, as their oak aged red wines have all the complexity and earthy, spicy excellence of some of the finest wines in the world, and the sparkling wines of Asti and elsewhere in Italy can easily challenge and often exceed the high standards put forward by Champagne. Thanks to excellent terrain and climatic conditions, Italy has long since proven itself a major player in the world of wines, and long may this dedication to quality and excellence continue.