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.
The green-skinned Viognier grape varietal has been around for centuries in France, with many people claiming that they were brought to the Rhone region from Croatia by ancient Romans who were impressed by its flavors and aromas. Today, they are grown in several different countries, although many wineries find them a difficult varietal to work with as they are highly susceptible to disease, and struggle in fluctuating climatic conditions. However, when the grapes are harvested at the right time, the wines they produce are of an exceptional quality. Their floral aromas are their main selling point, as these give an impression of sweetness over an otherwise dry and fruit-forward wine, and their crispness and low acidity makes them an ideal match for many international cuisines.
Region: Rhone Valley
For over two thousand years, the southern French region of the Rhone Valley has been home to wine-makers and wineries of many different types. The ancient Greeks were the first to discover that a wide range of grape varietals can flourish in the rich soils and micro-climates which typify the region, and little has changed to this day. In the modern age, the Rhone Valley is recognized around the world as the home of excellent quality white, red and rosÃ© wines, as well as some of the most highly respected blended wines on earth. The region is split into two distinctive sub-regions, with the cooler, continental northern sub-region producing primarily Syrah, Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier wines of exquisite quality, and the hotter southern sub-region growing a much wider variety of grapes.
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.