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 deep and dark wines made from the Montepulciano grape varietal have been hugely popular in Italy for over a thousand years, and remain popular to this day due to their large ripe flavors, and easy drinking character. Indeed, the Montepulciano grape is the second most cultivated red wine grape in Italy, with it being grown in twenty of the country's ninety five wine provinces. In recent decades, it has been cultivated in several other countries in the New World, in places with the correct warm and dry climatic conditions it thrives in. The Montepulciano grape has a low acidity, and medium levels of tannin, making it a smooth wine with a relatively light body, allowing the delicious flavors of ripened autumn fruits take center stage. It produces high yields, and matches well with many different foods.
On the eastern side of central Italy, close to the Adriatic coast, we find the stunning wine region of Marche, a region associated with wines of character and distinction, and renowned for being one of the oldest and most influential wine regions in the country. Indeed, Marche has been an important home of quality wine production for almost three thousand years, and has been used for vineyard cultivation by everyone from the Romans to the Pheonicians, the Greeks and the Lombards. As such, this is a region with a strong and proud traditional identity and heritage, and over its sixty thousand acres, we find many of Italy's finest red and white wines. Marche is primarily considered a white wine region, most closely associated with Trebbiano and Verdicchio grapes. However, the red wine industry in Marche is strong, and features many of Italy's most interesting and characterful red wines, made with beautiful native grape varietals.
Italy is recognised as being one of the finest wine producing countries in the world, and it isn't difficult to see why. With a vast amount of land across the country used primarily for vineyard cultivation and wine production, each region of Italy manages to produce a wide range of excellent quality wines, each representative of the region it is produced in. Any lover of Italian wines will be able to tell you of the variety the country produces, from the deliciously astringent and alpine-fresh wines of the northern borders, to the deliciously jammy and fruit-forward wines of the south and the Italian islands. Regions such as Barolo are frequently compared with Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, as their oak aged red wines have all the complexity and earthy, spicy excellence of some of the finest wines in the world, and the sparkling wines of Asti and elsewhere in Italy can easily challenge and often exceed the high standards put forward by Champagne. Thanks to excellent terrain and climatic conditions, Italy has long since proven itself a major player in the world of wines, and long may this dedication to quality and excellence continue.