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.
In Macedonia and many parts of mountainous Greece, the dry and arid landscape have proven to be an ideal home for the Xinomavro varietal grape. This native varietal has been cultivated and processed for over a thousand years in this part of Europe, and is beginning to be experimented with elsewhere in the world where the climatic conditions are suitable for its type. The name of the grape means 'acid black' in Greek, referring to both the color of the skin, and the fact that this particular varietal holds a relatively high acid content. However, the Xinomavro grape is most widely celebrated for its tannin-rich character, which makes it an ideal grape for barrel aging This process reveals many of the wonderful flavors and aromas the complex Xinomavro grape holds, and is a real treat for lovers of dark and interesting red wines.
It is almost impossible to understate the importance of local and regionally produced wines in Greek culture. Across the country, from the cities of the mainland to the villages, mountainous regions and islands, wine is produced using traditional methods and native grape varietals, and is drank in households and taverns, either accompanying the much loved local cuisine or alone as a refreshment under the blazing Mediterranean sunshine. For wine lovers around the world, Greece is known for producing several wines with something unique and interesting to offer, a refreshing change from the norm filled with surprises and complex, occasionally challenging or unusual flavors and aromas. Thanks to the vast range in terrain across the archipelago, Greek wine is as varied as it is delicious, meaning there is plenty to explore and enjoy from this fascinating and ancient country.