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.
It is said that one of the most prized grapes of the ancient Roman empire was the Fiano varietal, a green skinned white wine grape renowned for producing straw colored wines of extraordinary character and flavor Indeed, the Fiano grape is one of the true classical varietals, being grown and cultivated by the Romans and the Greeks before them, and continuing to be used for white wine production to this day in Italy, as well as in certain New World countries. The wines made from Fiano grapes are much loved for the fact that they contain several unusual flavors which result in a complex and delicious wine. Honey, hazelnuts and various spices are detectable in the grapes of the Fiano varietal, finished with a delightful floral bouquet.
For over three thousand years now, Campania has been one of Europe's most important and enduring wine regions. A thousand years before the Romans helped spread Italian wines around the known world, Campanian farmers and vintners were experimenting with their vast array of native grape varietals, and producing wines which went down in history due to their quality, their strength of character and their fine aromas and flavors What makes Campania so special? There are, of course, many theories. However, one only has to look at the exceptional volcanic soils, and hot, dry Mediterranean climate of the region in order to begin understanding just why the grapes here grow so well and express so many fine characteristics. This special region has been producing quality wines since time immemorial, and it seems unlikely it will stop doing so any time soon.
For several decades in the mid to late twentieth century, Italy's reputation for quality wines took a fairly serious blow. This was brought about partly due to lack of regulation in certain regions, and too much regulation in others. This led to several wineries in the beautiful and highly fertile region of Tuscany making the bold move to work outside of the law, which they saw as responsible for the drop in quality in Tuscan wines. They believed that they had the expertise and the generations of experience necessary with which to make truly excellent, world class wines, and set about doing just that. These 'Super Tuscans', as they came to be known, quickly inspired the rest of Italy to improve their produce, and now, Italian wine producers in the twenty-first century are widely recognised to be amongst the best in the world. Regulation and law began to change, and wine drinkers across the globe woke up to the outstanding wines coming out of Italy, which are continuing to improve and impress to this day.