2010 saw extremely high quality viticulture in many parts of the world, with an exceptionally long and hot summer providing huge benefits for wineries across many countries, especially in the southern hemisphere. The northern hemisphere and Europe saw something of a cooler summer and flowering period, but this was by no means as disastrous as it could have been. France, especially, had a fantastic year in 2010, with the world renowned Burgundy region proclaiming that their white wines of this year are ones to look out for, and despite yields being relatively small across much of the country, the quality was exceptionally high. Spain, too, received some cooler weather, but Rioja and the rest of central Spain are hailing 2010 as a very good year indeed, again as a result of smaller, finer yields. California also received similar climatic conditions, but again, wineries are highly positive about the overall effect this had on their produce, as the slightly challenging conditions resulted in smaller yields of much elegance and distinction.
2010 was really Australia's year, and in South Australia and across the Mornington Peninsula, Chardonnay vines produced good yields with a lower sugar level than in previous years. As such, the majority of South Australian white wines from 2010 are superb, and packed full of character. Shiraz also had a great year, and most Australian wineries have been proclaiming 2010 one of the great vintages. Both the Argentinian and Chilean wine industries benefited from some ideal climatic conditions this year, and are reportedly ecstatically pleased with the fact that their 2010 wines ended up with lower alcohol levels, and were beautifully balanced wines packed full of flavor.
Varietal: Champagne Blend
Whilst Champagne sparkling wines are most commonly made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grape varietals, there are actually seven fine grape varietals allowed by French wine law for inclusion in the wines of this region. These include Arbanne, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and and Petit Meslier alongside the others, although these four are being used less and less in the modern age. Champagnes are normally blended wines, although the popularity of single variety 'blanc de blanc' Champagnes made solely with Chardonnay grapes, and 'blanc de noir' wines made only with Pinot Noir varietal grapes are becoming more and more popular. The blending process found in most Champagnes aims to take the finest points of each grape varietal and bring them together to produce spectacular, strong yet balanced results in the bottle.
For hundreds of years, the beautiful alpine region of Piedmont in north-west Italy has been producing excellent quality red wines, and some of the most characterful sparkling white wines to have ever come out of the Old World. The region is dominated by the mighty Alps which form the border between Italy, France and Switzerland, and the Moscato grapes that are grown in the foothills of this mountain range carry much of the Alps' flavors in their fruit, and are fed by crystal clear mountain waters. However, it is the Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Barbera grapes which are the real stars of this region, and the highly respected wineries which cover much of Piedmont have generations of experience when it comes to processing and aging these grape varietals to produce the superb wines which come out of appellations such as Barolo and Barberesco.
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.