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.
In southern Italy, and particularly the area of Salento in Puglia, some of the finest red wines are made from the Negroamaro grape, a dark colored grape which has a rather unique character, resulting in wines of singular quality and flavor The name 'Negroamaro' directly translates a 'black-bitter' in Italian, and the earthy bitterness of the grapes is something highly prized by vintners looking to make traditional and rustic red wines from this varietal. The grapes also have a highly aromatic character, and a strong set of fruit flavors which can often be a little overpowering. For this reason, the Negroamaro grape is most commonly used as a blending grape, adding body and flavor to weaker varietals. However, it is also used for very interesting single variety bottles, which are much loved in the region they are grown.
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.
Italy is recognised as being one of the finest wine producing countries in the world, and it isn't difficult to see why. With a vast amount of land across the country used primarily for vineyard cultivation and wine production, each region of Italy manages to produce a wide range of excellent quality wines, each representative of the region it is produced in. Any lover of Italian wines will be able to tell you of the variety the country produces, from the deliciously astringent and alpine-fresh wines of the northern borders, to the deliciously jammy and fruit-forward wines of the south and the Italian islands. Regions such as Barolo are frequently compared with Bordeaux and Burgundy in France, as their oak aged red wines have all the complexity and earthy, spicy excellence of some of the finest wines in the world, and the sparkling wines of Asti and elsewhere in Italy can easily challenge and often exceed the high standards put forward by Champagne. Thanks to excellent terrain and climatic conditions, Italy has long since proven itself a major player in the world of wines, and long may this dedication to quality and excellence continue.