The year 2011 was an interesting year for many northern and central European countries, as the weather was more than unpredictable in the spring and summer. However, in most countries, the climatic conditions thankfully settled down in the late summer and fall. The result of this slightly difficult year of weather in France was a set of surprisingly small yields, but overall, these yields were of a higher quality than those harvested in certain previous years. A fantastic set of wines was also made in Italy and Spain, and the Rioja wines - when released - are set to be very good indeed. Austria also had superb year in 2011, with almost fifty percent more grapes being grown and used for their distinctive Gruner Veltliner wines than in the year before. Possibly the European country which had the finest 2011, though, was Portugal, with wineries in the Douro region claiming this year to be one of the best in decades for the production of Port wine, and the bright, young Vinho Verdes wines.
In the New World, the Pacific Northwest saw some of the best weather of 2011, and Washington State and Oregon reportedly had a highly successful year, especially for the cultivation of high quality red wine grapes. Chile and Argentina had a relatively cool year, which certainly helped retain the character of many of their key grape varietals, and should make for some exciting drinking. South Africa had especially good weather for their white wine grape varietals, particularly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and many South African wineries are reporting 2011 as one of their best years in recent memory.
The purple skinned grapes of the Grenache varietal have quickly become one of the most widely planted red wine grapes in the world, flourishing in several countries which have the correct conditions in which they can grow to ripeness. They thrive anywhere with a dry, hot climate, such as that found in central Spain and other such arid areas, and produce delightfully light bodied wines full of spicy flavors and notes of dark berries. Their robustness and relative vigor has led them being a favorite grape varietal for wineries all over the world, and whilst it isn't uncommon to see bottles made from this varietal alone, they are also regularly used as a blending grape due to their high sugar content and ability to produce wines containing a relatively high level of alcohol.
Region: La Rioja
The wines of La Rioja have been famed throughout the world for many centuries, due to their excellence of flavor and deep, complex character. La Rioja is a green and fertile region of Spain, situated on the north of the country, yet sheltered from the cold and wet Atlantic oceanic influences by the expansive Cantabrian mountain range near the coast. La Rioja's most famous and widely loved grape varietal is the Tempranillo, which is grown in the majority of the vineyards in the region. However, many of the best wines of La Rioja are blended varieties, often featuring the aromatic Garnacha varietal for added perfume. The region also produces several extremely fine white wines, usually made from the Viura varietal grape, which are aged in barrels for extra flavor and aroma.
Spanish wines are renowned world-wide for carrying all the passion and character of the Spanish culture within them. Any lover of Spanish wine would undoubtedly be able to confirm this notion, as the variety and range of flavors and aromas coming from the high end of Spanish produce is truly impressive, and continues to delight and fascinate both newcomers and the more experienced. Spain benefits massively from an ideal climate for wine production and vine cultivation, with its long, scorching hot summers and far reaching oceanic breezes working perfectly with the native and imported grape varietals, which thrive on the mineral rich soils that cover much of the country. With centuries of knowledge, and generations of expertise under their belts, Spanish wineries continue to focus on raising the quality of their nation's wines, helped along the way by relatively new laws and regulations regarding regional excellence and representativeness.