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 grape has been grown in Puglia, Italy, for at least eight hundred years, and is believed to have been brought to the region by traveling tradesmen from Asia Minor. It quickly became an important grape for the region, and is used to this day in many of the finest wines of southern Italy. As its name suggests, the Negroamaro grape is a black skinned fruit, high in tannins and holding plenty of big, juicy fruit flavors It is also widely celebrated for its rustic character, and holds a natural earthy bitterness in its fermented juices which give the wines made from the Negroamaro grape a unique character. It is often used as a blending grape, as it produces quite a dark and high alcohol wine, but the single variety wines are beautifully complex and aromatic, and not to be missed.
In the very south of Italy, in the heel of the country's 'boot', we find the beautiful and sun drenched region of Puglia. Puglian wines suffered from a poor reputation throughout much of the twentieth century, with the region being generally associated with mass produced wines, more concerned with bulk and quantity than the quality of the produce. However, the past decade has seen a concerted effort on the part of the vintners of Puglia to do away with the region's negative connotations, and Puglian wines have undergone something of a renaissance. With awards and acclaim being piled upon the region, there has never been a better time to explore these characterful, flavorful and deeply exciting wines, packed as they are with big, boisterous dark fruit flavors and interesting attributes.
There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' â€“ the land of wines â€“ so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.