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.
Unusually for a grape grown in a hot climate, the Barbera grape varietal has a high acid content and remarkably light tannins, resulting in wines which are at once intense in flavor and light in body. This favorable combination has made it a popular grape for centuries in its native Italy, and changing international tastes have prompted it to become one of the most widely planted red grape varietals in the country. As a result of its growing popularity, many New World countries beginning to catch on and plant it where it can thrive and develop its unique characteristics. Barbera grapes are adored by wineries, as they are extremely vigorous and can produce high yields with little intervention, and are ideal for oak aging and for selling as young wines, packed with hedgerow fruit flavors.
The region of Piedmont in the cool, breezy north-western part of Italy is renowned throughout the world for high quality, flavorful and delicious red wines, and for the elegant and refined sparkling wines such as Asti which typify the area. The region is located at the foothills of the Alps, close to the French and Swiss borders, and benefits from some interesting micro-climates formed by its proximity to the mountain range. The key grapes for the fine red wines of Piedmont are Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera â€“ all powerful varietals which are packed full of a range of fruit flavors and which have an affinity for oak making them ideal for aging When it comes to the sparkling Asti, wineries cultivate plenty of Moscato grapes, whose relative transparency make them ideal for expressing their terroir and providing some interesting flavors in the bottle.
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.