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.
One of the most widely grown grapes in Italy is the Montepulciano varietal, which is much loved by wine producers and drinkers alike due to its drinkability and full, ripe flavors It thrives most successfully in warm and dry terroirs, and as such can grow in most of Italy's wine regions, where it is popular with vintners due to the fact that it produces very high yields. In recent years, it has been grown in many other countries around the world, where it is prized for its color and large plummy notes, making it an ideal varietal for many international palates. The wines themselves are usually soft and rounded, with mild tannins present in the mouth. However, the tannins in the grape skins contain lots of pigment, making these wines remarkably deep and dark in color.
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.
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.