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.
Negroamaro grapes have been grown in the Puglia region of southern Italy for centuries, where they have long been admired for their fairly intense flavors and the fact that they produce beautiful deep and dark wines, full of complexity and rustic character. It is believed that they were brought by traders from Asia Minor sometime at the beginning of the last millennium, but they have found their home in the warm and sunny Salento peninsular on the Mediterranean coast. Here, the Negroamaro grapes are used in single variety bottles, where their strength and earthy bitterness takes center stage. They are also often used as a blending grape, as their powerful character and ability to add color and body to wines is a highly prized attribute often needed by vintners when looking to add something extra to their blend.
Puglia is one of Italy's most fascinating and 'up and coming' wine regions, and is full of traditional wineries keen to prove to the world that the produce of southern Italy can more than match that which comes from the central and northern regions of the country. Puglian wines are quite unique; they are generally big, bold and boisterous when it comes to flavor and structure, and are packed full of complex, dark and interesting notes, making them fascinating to taste and explore. Puglia itself is a beautiful wine region, and the volcanic soils and blazing sunshine of the Mediterranean coast is something of an ideal environment for viticulture. As such, Puglia is a region to keep a close eye on in the near future, should you wish to sample the best of Italy's latest, most exciting wines.
There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' â€“ the land of wines â€“ so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.