2010 saw extremely high quality viticulture in many parts of the world, with an exceptionally long and hot summer providing huge benefits for wineries across many countries, especially in the southern hemisphere. The northern hemisphere and Europe saw something of a cooler summer and flowering period, but this was by no means as disastrous as it could have been. France, especially, had a fantastic year in 2010, with the world renowned Burgundy region proclaiming that their white wines of this year are ones to look out for, and despite yields being relatively small across much of the country, the quality was exceptionally high. Spain, too, received some cooler weather, but Rioja and the rest of central Spain are hailing 2010 as a very good year indeed, again as a result of smaller, finer yields. California also received similar climatic conditions, but again, wineries are highly positive about the overall effect this had on their produce, as the slightly challenging conditions resulted in smaller yields of much elegance and distinction.
2010 was really Australia's year, and in South Australia and across the Mornington Peninsula, Chardonnay vines produced good yields with a lower sugar level than in previous years. As such, the majority of South Australian white wines from 2010 are superb, and packed full of character. Shiraz also had a great year, and most Australian wineries have been proclaiming 2010 one of the great vintages. Both the Argentinian and Chilean wine industries benefited from some ideal climatic conditions this year, and are reportedly ecstatically pleased with the fact that their 2010 wines ended up with lower alcohol levels, and were beautifully balanced wines packed full of flavor.
Today, Merlot is generally believed to be one of the most popular and widely planted grape varietals in the world, with expert estimates putting it just behind Cabernet Sauvignon in the top three most planted vines. Ask any winery anywhere between France and Argentina, and they'll tell you it is due to the grapes reliability, fantastic range of flavors and unique properties. Single variety Merlot wines are especially popular with companies wishing to target newcomers to the world of red wine, due to the fact that as Merlot has a low tannin content, and relatively little malic acid, the wines it produces are fleshy, well rounded and firmly in the 'medium body' category. This essentially means that they are extremely drinkable, full of lovely jammy fruit flavors and rich, pleasing aromas. That isn't to say that Merlot is only for beginners, though, as this grape is also one of the key varietals for producing some of the most highly respected, complex and perfectly balanced wines in the world.
Region: Valle Central
The Valle Central in Chile has long since been one of South America's most productive and prodigious wine regions, with millions of bottles leaving the wineries of the region each year. The climate of Valle Central is hugely varied, thanks to the many micro-climates caused by the geological features of the region. As such, a relatively wide range of grape varietals thrive there, depending on the location. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot do very well in the warmer, more humid areas, whilst white grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere can be found at higher altitudes. The region itself has been producing wines for an astonishingly long time; since the 16th century, vines have been cultivated in the Maipo Valley and close to the capital, Santiago, and the wine industry of Valle Central is now stronger than ever.
When the wealthy new landowners of the 19th century began planting large vineyards in the fertile central valleys of Chile, they must have been impressed at how successful the imported Old World grape varietals took to the land. However, such a fact is hardly surprising; with eight months of blazing sunshine coupled with oceanic winds from the west, and crystal clear spring waters from the Andes irrigating the soil, grapes such as Malbec, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were given everything they needed to flourish, and more. As the centuries passed, Chilean wineries continued to expand and experiment, resulting in a wide range of wine production methods and techniques, and consistently producing fine quality wines perfect for the international market. Nowadays, Chile is renowned for producing a wide variety of crisp white wines, and juicy, fruity reds enjoyed around the world for their drinkability and flavorful character, making this country very much one of the 'New World', albeit one with a fascinating link to the Old.