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.
Aglianico varietal grapes have a long and impressive history, having been brought to the Campania region of Italy over two thousand years ago, and becoming the primary grape for the production of ancient Rome's finest wines. They were and continue to be prized for their deep dark color, and particularly their thick black skins which have a high tannin content. These tannins mean that the wine made from Aglianico grapes is ideal for aging, as time spent in oak mellows the harsher characteristics of the grape and results in fine, mellow, balanced wines bursting with complex fruit flavors Aglianico grapes also have a high acidity content, but this doesn't get in the way of the lovely plum and chocolate aromas associated with the varietal. Aglianico grapes are often blended with Bordeaux varietals, to produce wonderfully complex wines of excellent character.
Campania in Italy is one of the world's most fascinating and beautiful wine regions, located in the west of Italy, in the 'shin' of Italy's boot shaped peninsula. What makes Campania so special is the fact that wines of quality and distinction have been produced in this region for an astonishing length of time, indeed, archaeologists believe that Campania is a truly ancient wine region, with evidence of vineyard cultivation dating back to over three thousand years ago. Today, there are wineries located all over the varied region, making the most of the different soil types and climatic conditions Campania enjoys. The region is also blessed with an astonishing amount of different native grape varietals, and scientists have identified as many as a hundred different species, many of which are used to produce the region's characterful and unique wines.
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.