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.
Grenache grapes have long been cultivated in various parts of Europe, and are noted for being particularly successful in arid regions which are both hot and very dry. As such, they are ideal for many New World countries, and have quickly established themselves as one of the most widely grown red wine grape varietals in the world. The Grenache grape is easily identifiable by its purple skin, and tightly hanging bunches which grow quite rigorously in the correct conditions. They are most commonly associated with light bodied wines, with little tannins or acidity, yet quite a high alcohol content. As such, they are very versatile, and are regularly used for both single variety and blended wines, in which their strong and unique features can shine through.
Region: Languedoc Roussillon
Languedoc Roussillon is one of the world's most important wine regions, with an annual output which, amazingly, exceeds that of the United States, and which makes up for over a third of France's overall wine production. Languedoc Roussillon is also a hugely important region for wine history, and is widely regarded as probably the first part of France in which grapevines were cultivated, after many were introduced by the ancient Greeks several thousand years ago. The region is renowned around the world for having a dedication to quality which matches the quantity it produces, and the range of wines produced in Languedoc Roussillon is truly impressive, with red, white, dessert and sparkling wines all being made to high levels of excellence within the region.
Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.