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.
Carignan is a blue-skinned grape thought to have originally been grown in Spain, but which is now more commonly associated with southern France and various other countries, including Algeria and the island of Sardinia. They used to be blended with other Spanish varietals for the production of Rioja wines, although their inclusion today is rare. An ancient grape varietal, Carignan is often seen as quite a challenge for wineries to grow. Not only does it have an extremely sensitive nature, and is often highly susceptible to rot, but the grapes themselves have a high natural acid and tannin content, which can often be too astringent for modern tastes. However, given the correct care and treatment, Carignan grapes can produce wonderful single variety and blended wines, packed full of interesting characteristics and flavors which are fascinating to explore.
With sixty thousand hectares of prime land under vine, and over two hundred bodegas and wineries operating there, the Spanish region of Catalunya is a vitally important centre for Spanish wine production and viticulture. It seems this has been the case for several thousand years, and recent archaeological findings have proven that Catalunya has a wine history which pre-dates Roman Spain by a considerable margin, making it one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Catalan wines today are dominated by the ever popular sparkling Cava wines, made in the methode champenois, and drank across the globe as a fine replacement for the more expensive Champagne wines. However, the excellent climatic conditions and terroir of Catalunya means that the bodegas of the region can also produce excellent still red and white wines, made from the wide range of grape varietals which thrive there.
For over two thousand years, Spain has been responsible for much of Europe's wine production, making the very best of native grape varietals, and more recently experimenting with and perfecting wines made from imported grapes. Of course, the region of La Rioja is renowned world-wide for the quality and characteristics of its wines, which benefit greatly from the warm, dry continental climate of the area, and the fertile soils of the Ebro river basin. However, there is far more to Spanish produce than the complex, aromatic and earthy red wine of this region, as a result of the vast range of wine making traditions and practices, and terrains and climatic conditions found across the country. The region Castilla y Leon produces some of Europe's finest white wines, and the sparkling wines of Cava and the sherries of Jerez are firm favorites for wine lovers around the world.