2012 has, so far been a positive year for wineries around the world. While it may be a little too early to speak of the wines being made in the northern hemisphere, European and North American wineries have already begun reporting that their harvesting season has been generally very good, and are predicting to continue with the kind of successes they saw in 2011. However, 2012 has been something of a late year for France, due to unpredictable weather throughout the summer, and the grapes were ripening considerably later than they did in 2011 (which was, admittedly, an exceptionally early year). French wineries are claiming, though, that this could well turn out to be advantageous, as the slow ripening will allow the resulting wines to express more flavour and features of the terroir they are grown in.
The southern hemisphere has seen ideal climatic conditions in most of the key wine producing countries, and Australia and New Zealand particularly had a superb year, in particular with the Bordeaux varietal grapes that grow there and which love the humidity these countries received plenty of. Also enjoying a fantastic year for weather were wineries across Argentina and Chile, with the Mendoza region claiming that 2012 will be one of their best vintages of the past decade. Similar claims are being made across the Chilean wine regions, where Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon had an especially good year. These two grape varietals also produced characterful wines on the coastal regions of South Africa this year.
The Negroamaro grapes typical of Puglia in southern Italy have been an important feature of this region's wines for almost a millennium. Big, bold, deep and dark, the Negroamaro grape is widely enjoyed for its rustic character and the fact that it produces beautifully dark and bloody wines, packed full of intense flavors and a delightfully earthy bitterness. The name 'Negroamaro' means 'black-bitter' in Italian, but there is some dispute over the actual etymology of the name of this varietal, with many people claiming it actually comes from both the Greek and Latin words for 'black' as a result of the color of its dark, thick skins. Often used for single varietal wines in its home region, the Negroamaro grape is surprisingly versatile, and is commonly used for sparkling wines and as a blending grape to add body to weaker wines.
The beautiful southern Italian region of Puglia is a particularly fascinating wine region for fans of modern Italian produce. For much of the twentieth century, the region was considered one associated primarily with the kind of mass produced, dull Italian wine which almost cost the country its reputation in the 1970s. However, Puglian wine makers today are determined to prove to the world that their wineries and native grape varietals can match those of Italy's more famous regions, and have been on a mission to produce stunning wines made in the traditional, distinctive Puglian style. This generally means wines with big characters, a relatively high alcohol content, and plenty of dark, deep, complex fruit flavors and aromas; wines which are unique, made with traditional methods and techniques, and which are utterly delicious and inviting.
For several decades in the mid to late twentieth century, Italy's reputation for quality wines took a fairly serious blow. This was brought about partly due to lack of regulation in certain regions, and too much regulation in others. This led to several wineries in the beautiful and highly fertile region of Tuscany making the bold move to work outside of the law, which they saw as responsible for the drop in quality in Tuscan wines. They believed that they had the expertise and the generations of experience necessary with which to make truly excellent, world class wines, and set about doing just that. These 'Super Tuscans', as they came to be known, quickly inspired the rest of Italy to improve their produce, and now, Italian wine producers in the twenty-first century are widely recognised to be amongst the best in the world. Regulation and law began to change, and wine drinkers across the globe woke up to the outstanding wines coming out of Italy, which are continuing to improve and impress to this day.