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.
The Negroamaro grape has been grown in Puglia, Italy, for at least eight hundred years, and is believed to have been brought to the region by traveling tradesmen from Asia Minor. It quickly became an important grape for the region, and is used to this day in many of the finest wines of southern Italy. As its name suggests, the Negroamaro grape is a black skinned fruit, high in tannins and holding plenty of big, juicy fruit flavors It is also widely celebrated for its rustic character, and holds a natural earthy bitterness in its fermented juices which give the wines made from the Negroamaro grape a unique character. It is often used as a blending grape, as it produces quite a dark and high alcohol wine, but the single variety wines are beautifully complex and aromatic, and not to be missed.
The beautiful southern Italian region of Puglia is a particularly fascinating wine region for fans of modern Italian produce. For much of the twentieth century, the region was considered one associated primarily with the kind of mass produced, dull Italian wine which almost cost the country its reputation in the 1970s. However, Puglian wine makers today are determined to prove to the world that their wineries and native grape varietals can match those of Italy's more famous regions, and have been on a mission to produce stunning wines made in the traditional, distinctive Puglian style. This generally means wines with big characters, a relatively high alcohol content, and plenty of dark, deep, complex fruit flavors and aromas; wines which are unique, made with traditional methods and techniques, and which are utterly delicious and inviting.
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.