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.
There are few regions in the world which can boast of a wine industry quite as ancient or influential as that of Marche in Italy. For almost three thousand years, vineyards have been cultivated in the central eastern region of Marche, where the Adriatic winds cool the hot vines, and the mineral rich mountainous soil provides plenty of nutrition, helping the grapes reach full ripeness. Marche is most commonly associated with fine white wines, usually made from the exceedingly high quality Trebbiano and Verdicchio grapes which flourish there. However, wineries in Marche are also adept at making exceptional red wines from Montepulciano and Sangiovese, which are increasingly popular with international wine drinkers, and which express the real quality of the terroir they grow on, and the expertise of the wine makers of Marche.
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.