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 beautiful straw colored wines made with the Fiano varietal grape are notable for their delightfully floral aromas, and the fact that they contain fascinating flavors of dark honey and hazelnut, alongside spicy notes and other complex features. However, the Fiano grapes which grow in and around the Campania region of Italy, as well as in certain New World countries, are most renowned for the fact that they are a truly ancient classical grape varietal, being a favorite of the ancient Romans and most likely the ancient Greeks before them. The cultivation of Fiano varietal grapes remains quite small to this day, but the wines made from these grapes is adored by those looking for an elegant and complex white wine full of character.
Campania is a stunning coastal wine region of Italy, home to over a hundred native grape varietals and some of the finest soils and climatic conditions for viticulture on earth. The fine Mediterranean climate crossed with the mineral rich volcanic terroirs produces grapes of exceptional quality and flavor, and as such, Campania has been an important center for wine production for over three thousand years. As one might expect from such an ancient and esteemed wine region, tradition is highly important to the wineries which operate there. Careful attention is paid in order to bring the most representative flavors and aromas out of the grapes, and traditional, time honored techniques are still employed across the region when producing their many highly regarded wines.
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.