2008 saw very high yields across wineries in much of the southern hemisphere, as a result of highly favorable climatic conditions. Although in many areas, these high yields brought with them something of a drop in overall quality, this could not be said for South Australia's wines, which were reportedly excellent. Indeed, the 2008 Shiraz harvest in South Australia is said to be one of the most successful in recent decades, and western Australia's Chardonnays are set to be ones to watch out for. New Zealand's Pinot Noir harvest was also very good, with wineries in Martinborough reportedly very excited about this particular grape and the characteristics it revealed this year.
Pinot Noir also grew very well in the United States, and was probably the most successful grape varietal to come out of California in 2008, with Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley delivering fantastic results from this grape. Elsewhere in United States, Washington State and Oregon had highly successful harvests in 2008 despite some early worries about frost.
However, it was France who had the best of the weather and growing conditions in 2008, and this year was one of the great vintages for Champagne, the MÃ©doc in Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence, with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes leading the way. Italy, too, shared many of these ideal conditions, with the wineries in Tuscany claiming that their Chianti Classicos of 2008 will be ones to collect, and Piedmont's Barberesco and Barolo wines will be recognized as amongst the finest of the past decade.
Varietal: White Rhone Blend
The careful blending of Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne or Grenache Blanc grape varietals has typified the wine making practices of France's Rhone region for centuries, and has secured their reputation as one of the finest regions in the world for excellent blended white wines. Most commonly, the blended wines of this region hold delicate and aromatic flavors, reminiscent of honeysuckle, peach, pear and green apple, and are adored by winemakers and drinkers alike. Whilst Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne varietal grapes are all renowned for their fruity characteristics and floral aroma, it is the transparent and acidic Grenache Blanc which lends the wines their backbone and helps build up the structure of the blended wines. Such expertise and knowledge of how these grapes can compliment each other is the secret to the Rhone's success, and has been emulated and imitated in several countries around the world.
Region: Rhone Valley
For over two thousand years, the southern French region of the Rhone Valley has been home to wine-makers and wineries of many different types. The ancient Greeks were the first to discover that a wide range of grape varietals can flourish in the rich soils and micro-climates which typify the region, and little has changed to this day. In the modern age, the Rhone Valley is recognized around the world as the home of excellent quality white, red and rosÃ© wines, as well as some of the most highly respected blended wines on earth. The region is split into two distinctive sub-regions, with the cooler, continental northern sub-region producing primarily Syrah, Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier wines of exquisite quality, and the hotter southern sub-region growing a much wider variety of grapes.
French winemakers are subjected to several laws and regulations regarding the wines they produce, and how they can be labeled and sold. Such procedures are designed to increase the overall quality of the country's produce, and also to ensure that wines made in each particular region or appellation are of a character and type which is representative of the area. Thankfully for consumers of wine world-wide, the French have a particularly high reputation to uphold, and seem to do so flawlessly. Every year, wineries from all over France produce millions upon millions of bottles of fine wine, making the most of their native grape varieties and the excellent terrain which covers most of the country. From the expensive and exquisite red wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, to the white wines and cremants of central France, the French are dedicated to providing the world with wines of the highest quality and most distinctive character.