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.
Italy's beautiful southern wine region of Puglia is a fascinating place for fans of Italian wines. Situated in the very 'heel' of the country, sticking down into the Mediterranean sea, one can hardly imagine a more perfect place for viticulture. Rich, fertile volcanic soils help the grapes take on real character and stunning flavours, and the blazing sunshine of the long summers allows them to reach exceptional levels of ripeness. The wines of Puglia are a great example of how certain Italian regions are throwing off the poor reputations of yesteryear, and using their traditional techniques and methods to create characterful wines, packed full of unique flavours. Puglian wines are renowned for their large, powerful and boisterous characters, and their excellent structure which supports their strong and unique fruit flavours.
It isn't difficult to understand why Italy is famed not just for the quality of its wines, but also for the vast variety and range of characteristics found in the wines there. The terrain of the country varies wildly, from the lush rolling green hills and valley of Tuscany, to the sun drenched rocky coasts of Sicily, the mountainous and alpine regions of the north, and the marshy lowlands of the east. Italy really does have a little bit of everything. Combine this huge range of landscapes with an almost perfect climate for grape cultivation, and you have a country seemingly designed for viticultural excellence. The results speak for themselves, and it is clear to see that wine has become an inseparable part of Italian culture as a result of its abundance and brilliance. Each village, city and region has a local wine perfectly matched with the cuisine of the area, and not an evening passes without the vast majority of Italian families raising a glass of locally sourced wine with pride and pleasure.