2008 saw very high yields across wineries in much of the southern hemisphere, as a result of highly favorable climatic conditions. Although in many areas, these high yields brought with them something of a drop in overall quality, this could not be said for South Australia's wines, which were reportedly excellent. Indeed, the 2008 Shiraz harvest in South Australia is said to be one of the most successful in recent decades, and western Australia's Chardonnays are set to be ones to watch out for. New Zealand's Pinot Noir harvest was also very good, with wineries in Martinborough reportedly very excited about this particular grape and the characteristics it revealed this year.
Pinot Noir also grew very well in the United States, and was probably the most successful grape varietal to come out of California in 2008, with Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley delivering fantastic results from this grape. Elsewhere in United States, Washington State and Oregon had highly successful harvests in 2008 despite some early worries about frost.
However, it was France who had the best of the weather and growing conditions in 2008, and this year was one of the great vintages for Champagne, the MÃ©doc in Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence, with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes leading the way. Italy, too, shared many of these ideal conditions, with the wineries in Tuscany claiming that their Chianti Classicos of 2008 will be ones to collect, and Piedmont's Barberesco and Barolo wines will be recognized as amongst the finest of the past decade.
Varietal: Nero D'avola
Sicily is one of the world's most ideal grape growing regions, as it benefits from all the beauty and heat of a Mediterranean climate, and has mineral rich volcanic soils perfect for viticulture. One of the key varietals grown in Sicily is the Nero d'Avola, an indigenous grape which has become a highly important fruit for the Italian wine culture. In recent years, it has had plenty of success in various New World countries, as it thrives in hot and arid conditions and produces big, juicy, fruit-forward wines with plenty of pepper and spice notes. In Sicily, the Nero d'Avola grape is often used in the production of fortified wines such as Marsala, but it is most well loved in the still wines made from it, as they tend to be packed full of excellent flavors ideal for pairing with a range of foods.
For thousands of years, Sicily has been producing high quality wines of several different styles which are consistently enjoyed all over the world. The ancient Greeks may have been the first to recognize how perfect this island was for viticulture, but today a huge area of Sicily is covered in vineyards growing plenty of different grape varietals and resulting in some of Italy's finest wines. This unique wine region produces a considerable percentage of Italy's overall wines, and it isn't difficult to see how wineries have flourished on the island. With beautiful year-round sunshine, cooling sea breezes helping the grapes reach full ripeness, along with the highly fertile volcanic soil which is typical of Sicily, it should come as no surprise this is one of Europe's oldest and most productive wine regions.
It isn't difficult to understand why Italy is famed not just for the quality of its wines, but also for the vast variety and range of characteristics found in the wines there. The terrain of the country varies wildly, from the lush rolling green hills and valley of Tuscany, to the sun drenched rocky coasts of Sicily, the mountainous and alpine regions of the north, and the marshy lowlands of the east. Italy really does have a little bit of everything. Combine this huge range of landscapes with an almost perfect climate for grape cultivation, and you have a country seemingly designed for viticultural excellence. The results speak for themselves, and it is clear to see that wine has become an inseparable part of Italian culture as a result of its abundance and brilliance. Each village, city and region has a local wine perfectly matched with the cuisine of the area, and not an evening passes without the vast majority of Italian families raising a glass of locally sourced wine with pride and pleasure.