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
The Bordeaux region of France consistently enjoys the reputation of being the finest region for wine making in the world. But what is it that makes this area around the Gironde river so special? The secret lies in their ancient and careful blend of no more than six high quality, flavorful and unique grape varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and CarmÃ©nere are all permitted for usage in the production of Bordeaux wines, and the winery carefully considers how to balance the fine points of one varietal against another. Most commonly, Cabernet Sauvignon is used as the main grape varietal, usually with vintners making wines containing upwards of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon grape juices. This varietal lends its big, spicy, fruity flavors and astringent, tannin-heavy character to the mix. Normally, this strong varietal is then tempered and rounded by Merlot, a fleshy, fruity and far lighter bodied grape, containing far fewer tannins and a much brighter flavor The blended wines are normally left to age in oak, where they can continue to work together and produce their wonderful results.
The wineries of Bordeaux in France are widely considered to be amongst the finest on earth, with many of the chateaux found on the Left Bank and in the MÃ©doc region routinely demanding enormous prices and being snapped up by collectors looking to add the best examples of the world's white and red wines to their cellars. Bordeaux's secret to success comes from the fact that the terroir of the region is exceptionally rich in minerals, helped by the clay and gravel soils which typify the area and the Gironde river which runs through it. Normally humid in climate, the nearby Atlantic coast supplies cooling breezes, making Bordeaux a winemaker's dream and resulting in extremely high quality grape varietals. For hundreds of years, the wineries of Bordeaux have been mastering the art of wine blending, and today produce a wide range of wine styles using many of the sixteen grape varietals permitted to grow in the region by French law.
France is renowned across the globe for its quality wines and the careful expertise which goes into making them, but what is truly remarkable about this relatively small country is the vast range of wines it produces in such huge amounts each year. Not only are the finest red wines in the world said to come from the beautiful regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, but elsewhere in the country we find the Champagne region, and areas such as the Rhone Valley and the Loire, whose white wines consistently receive awards and accolades by the plenty. This range is a result of the great variety of climatic conditions and terrain found in France, coupled with generations of wine makers working within single appellations. Their knowledge of specific terroirs and grape varieties has, over time, perfected the production of wines within their region, and the end results continue to impress the world to this day.
Appellation: Saint Emilion
Of all of France's wine regions, the one most closely associated with high quality red wines is undoubtedly Bordeaux. Within Bordeaux, there is no other sub-region quite as highly esteemed as Saint Emilion, situated on the hallowed right bank of the Gironde river, and home to many of the world's most famous and dearly loved wine chateaus Saint Emilion is revered for its finely crafted and utterly delicious blended red wines, most commonly made by blending together wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot varietal grapes. The region is one steeped in tradition, and the blending techniques and methods have been handed down through the generations to ensure that the wines which bear the name Saint Emilion remain amongst the best in the world.