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 key grapes of the ever-growing Puglia wine industry is the Negroamaro, a native grape of this southern Italian region, famed for its deep, bloody red color and excellent set of flavors Indeed, many of the finest and most highly esteemed full bodied red wines of Puglia are made using the Negroamaro varietal grape, and it is grown most notably in the Salento area of the region, where it makes several types of red wine enjoyed locally and sold overseas. The name 'Negroamaro' means 'black-bitter', giving some clue as to one of the key features of the grape. Wines made with Negroamaro do indeed hold quite a lot of earthy bitterness, but generally are celebrated for their 'rustic' taste and extremely aromatic qualities.
Puglia is one of Italy's most fascinating and 'up and coming' wine regions, and is full of traditional wineries keen to prove to the world that the produce of southern Italy can more than match that which comes from the central and northern regions of the country. Puglian wines are quite unique; they are generally big, bold and boisterous when it comes to flavor and structure, and are packed full of complex, dark and interesting notes, making them fascinating to taste and explore. Puglia itself is a beautiful wine region, and the volcanic soils and blazing sunshine of the Mediterranean coast is something of an ideal environment for viticulture. As such, Puglia is a region to keep a close eye on in the near future, should you wish to sample the best of Italy's latest, most exciting wines.
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.