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.
Zinfandel varietal grapes are an interesting species whose exact origins are unknown. However, they have genetic equivalents in both Croatia and Puglia, where they are still grown, despite most of Zinfandel's vineyards being in the New World. These thin-skinned grapes thrive most healthily in warm climates, where the fairly delicate grapes are not prone to shrivel and dry up on the vine in intense heat. As such, valley regions all over the New World are often full of these dark and tightly bunched grapes which produce a lovely, light to medium bodied wine which varies greatly depending on the terroir it is grown in, and just how warm the climatic conditions over the vines are. Indeed, Zinfandel is renowned for being a grape varietal which can really show off the skill and expertise of the vintners who grow them, as the time of harvesting and the way in which they are processed (as well as the condition of the soil they are grown in) all have a strong effect on the flavor of the wine they produce.
It isn't difficult to see how California became one of the world's most important, successful and influential wine regions. Since the first vines were planted in the state by Spanish pioneers in the 18th century, the region has made the most of its ideal climatic conditions, which range from hot, dry and arid to windswept and cool, for vineyard cultivation and wine production. Today, California has almost half a million acres under vine, and hundreds of independent and well established wineries dotted across its vast wine-making areas. Californian wines range from the traditional, and those emulating fine Old World wines, to the experimental and unique, and it is the home to many of the world's most exciting and trailblazing wineries producing excellent bottles for the global market.
Country: United States
Whilst there are several strains of native grape varietals in the United States, it was the introduction of the European species which prompted the country to begin producing wines on a large scale. Over the past few centuries, experimentation and cross-breeding has produced great successes in regards to the quality and suitability of the fruit grown in states such as California, Oregon, Washington and New York, and the past few decades have seen New World wines from the United States reach much higher standards. Arguably the finest United States wines have always come out of California, where the climate and terrroir is most suitable for fine wine production. The masterful blending of classic grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, amongst others including Syrah and Chardonnay, have had world beating results in recent years, prompting many to suggest that there has never been a better time for buying and drinking United States wines.
Appellation: Monterey County
Monterey County is a fascinating wine region, situated on the Californian coast. It has become something of a region based around experimentation and innovation, and many of the wine-makers in Monterey County are keen to develop new hybrids and clones of successful and wildly popular French and Italian grapes, renowned for their superb flavor and aromas. Indeed, over forty different grape varietals are grown in Monterey County, and they all benefit hugely from the gorgeous Californian sunshine and mineral rich soils the state is renowned for. Many of the wineries in Monterey County are sustainable, organic or biodynamic, helping produce a wide array of different red and white wines of superb quality and distinction, which are finding new fans and dedicated, enthusiastic admirers each year.