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.
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is one of the planet's most widely grown and enjoyed grape varietals, and thanks to the popularity of the key wines it is associated with â€“ Burgundy and Champagne â€“ it has successfully spread from its native home in France to much of the wine producing world. Pinot Noir means 'black pine' in French, and this refers to the extremely dark, inky color of the fruit, and the fact that it grows in conical bunches, resembling a large pine cone. It has long been revered for its wide range of refreshing, summery flavors, and the fact that it produces red wines of a beautiful garnet color and light body. More recently, sparkling wines made exclusively with Pinot Noir have been extremely popular, and the orchard notes found in the fizzy 'blanc des noirs' wines mark out just how versatile this grape varietal really is. Despite being notoriously difficult to grow, it isn't hard to see why this grape is now found in vineyards all over the world, as it is synonymous with romance and decadence, quality and fantastic flavor
The beautiful German wine region of Pfalz is the second largest in the country, and a region recognized for its astonishing variety and the quality of its produce. With around 25,000 hectares of land in Pfalz under vine, the region produces an impressive amount of wine, considering the fact that the majority of wineries in the region are independent, small and traditionally run. The vineyards of Pfalz benefit enormously from their relatively warm, dry and sunny climate â€“ exceedingly similar to that of nearby Alsace â€“ and the high quality, mineral rich soils that typify the region. Although grapes have been cultivated in the Pfalz region since time immemorial, it was the Romans who first built up the wine region in the first century, introducing many grape varietals which can still be found growing there to this day.
If German wine has had something of a bad reputation in the past, it may well be the fault of the fact that for a long time now, the Germans have simply kept all the best produce to themselves. Visit any town or village in wine producing regions of Germany, and you'll be faced with a stunning array of extremely high quality wines, each matched with local dishes and full of distinct character and flavor. As white wine production makes up for about two-thirds of all Germany's wine industry, this is by far the most visible and widely enjoyed type of wine, but one should not overlook the quality and range of rosÃ© and red wines on offer from this fascinating country. In particular, the Spatburgunder wines (the German name for Pinot Noir) are generally of an exceptionally high quality, being full of dark, intense hedgerow fruit flavors and exciting spicy notes with a silky smooth finish.