2007 was the year that saw California's wine industry pick up once again, after a troubling couple of years. Indeed, all across the state of California, fantastic harvests were reported as a result of fine weather conditions throughout the flowering and ripening periods, and Napa Valley and Santa Barbera wines were widely considered amongst the best in the world in 2007, with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes packing in all sorts of fine and desirable features in this year. South Africa, too, had a much-needed fantastic year for red wines, with Pinotage particularly displaying strong characteristics, alongside the country's other flagship red wine grape varietals.
Over in Europe, France had another fine year, especially for white wines. Champagne wineries were very happy with their Chardonnay harvests, and the Loire Valley and Graves in Bordeaux are proclaiming 2007 to be a memorable year due to the quality of their white wine grapes. For French red wines, Provence had their best year for almost a decade, as did the Southern Rhone. However, 2007 was most favorable to Italy, who saw high yields of exceptional quality across almost all of their major wine producing regions. Tuscany is claiming to have produced its best Chianti and Brunello wines for several years in 2007, and Piedmont and Veneto had a wonderful year for red wines. For Italian white wines, 2007 was an extremely successful year for Alto Adige and Campania. Germany also had a very good 2007, with Riesling displaying extremely dry and crisp characteristics, as did Portugal, where Port wine from 2007 is said to be one to collect.
Merlot has long been a grape associated with excellent quality of character and flavor, and has spread around the globe as a result of its relative hardiness and reliability. From Chile to Bordeaux, Merlot vines grow to ripeness, and end up producing a remarkably wide variety of wines. Single variety wines made from Merlot grapes tend to be beautifully rich in color, and packed full of jammy, hedgerow flavors and notes of plum and currant, and ideal for newcomers to red wines as a result of their medium body. This medium body comes about due to the fact that the skin of Merlot grapes tends to be quite thin, meaning that the tannin content of Merlot wines is lower than those made from other blue-black grapes. The mellowness and roundedness which results is ideal for blending, also, and Merlot is used as a blending grape in some of the world's finest wineries, to produce aged wines of exceptional character.
Umbria in central Italy is one of the country's smallest wine regions, and is often overlooked due to its proximity to Tuscany. However, Umbria specialises in using its stunning Tuscany-esque terroir â€“ all rolling hillsides and lush, green vineyards â€“ to their full potential, and producing stunning wines of character and distinction for extremely reasonable prices. In particular, Umbria is renowned as something of a home of innovative Italian wine making, taking native varietals such as Sangiovese and Grechetto, and blending them with Bordeaux red and white wine grapes in order to produce spectacular aged, blended wines. By taking traditional viticultural practices, and shaking them up a bit, Umbria is quickly discarding its former poor reputation, and proving that it is a wine region to watch and explore.
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.