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.
Varietal: Red Bordeaux
There are few regions in the world with stricter regulations in regards to wine production and grape varietals than those found in Bordeaux, France. Here, in the home of the world's finest wines, the type and quality of grapes used is of utmost importance, and the legendary wineries which work on the banks of the Gironde river have mastered the careful art of juice blending to find the perfect balance for their produce. Whilst there are six 'official' Bordeaux grapes, the two key varietals for almost every fine Bordeaux wine are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and with good reason. Whilst Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are renowned for their acidity and astringency, strong fruit and spice flavors and full body, Merlot grapes are notably rounded, soft, fleshy and lighter on tannin. The combination of these two varietals, along with a small percentage of (commonly) Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc, is the perfect balancing act â€“ the two grape varietals cancel out each others weaker points, and accentuate all that is good about the other.
Of all the wine regions in France, the mostly highly esteemed and famous is surely Bordeaux. Most commonly associated with their superb examples of blended red wines, usually made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot varietals, Bordeaux consistently demonstrates that their mix of traditional and modern wine-making styles is the recipe for fame and success. The region benefits greatly from its humid climate, and the fact that its clay and gravel based soils are perfect for growing the fine grape varietals which flourish there. The region is split into quite distinct sub-regions, with the finest generally believed to be the Left Bank and the MÃ©doc region, where many of the most well known chateaux are based and produce their wonderful red and white wines.
It is widely understood and accepted that the finest wines in the world come out of France. Whether you are drinking a vintage bottle from one of the famed Grand Cru wineries of Bordeaux - such as Chateau Margaux or Chateau Lafite-Rothschild - or a more simple and affordable bottle from one of the lesser known appellations in Burgundy, the likelihood is that the wine is packed full of intense and interesting flavors, and has a fine, balanced structure typical of almost all French produce. This reputation for excellence is taken extremely serious by the French, with dozens of regularly updated laws and regulations ensuring the quality and accurate labeling of wines. Such dedication and passion for fine wine, representative of the region in which it is produced, means customers can be assured that when they buy a bottle from France, they are buying something almost certain to please and delight.
Appellation: Saint Emilion
The sub-region of Saint Emilion in France's beautiful and world renowned Bordeaux region is recognized across the globe by wine experts as one of the planet's premier wine producing areas. Saint Emilion is primarily associated with the production of high quality, characterful and flavorful blended red wines, and the blending techniques and methods used in the dozens of chateaus of the region have been passed down through the generations to maintain the reputation and popularity Saint Emilion enjoys. Most of the wines made in Saint Emilion use Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes to superb effect, balancing each varietal's finest points and ensuring the resulting wine is one which is complex, delicious, unique, and one which does justice to the excellent grapes which grow there.