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.
The Grenache grape varietal has its origins in the dry and arid regions of central Spain, where it continues to thrive to this day under the blazing sun of this region. However, its popularity and versatility has meant that these purple skinned grapes have spread all over the Old and New World and have become of the most widely planted grape varietals on earth. The tightly bunched, round fruit of the Grenache vine can be rigorous and prodigious in the correct conditions, but is often struggling against various types of rot and mildew. Thanks to modern techniques for avoiding such problems, Grenache grape farmers now enjoy strong and high quality yields which they can use to produce the distinctive light bodied and spicy wines associated with this grape.
With sixty thousand hectares of prime land under vine, and over two hundred bodegas and wineries operating there, the Spanish region of Catalunya is a vitally important centre for Spanish wine production and viticulture. It seems this has been the case for several thousand years, and recent archaeological findings have proven that Catalunya has a wine history which pre-dates Roman Spain by a considerable margin, making it one of the oldest wine regions in the world. Catalan wines today are dominated by the ever popular sparkling Cava wines, made in the methode champenois, and drank across the globe as a fine replacement for the more expensive Champagne wines. However, the excellent climatic conditions and terroir of Catalunya means that the bodegas of the region can also produce excellent still red and white wines, made from the wide range of grape varietals which thrive there.
From the deep and intense Rioja wines, or the dry and refreshing Ruedas, from Tempranillos to Verdejos, the range and quality of Spanish wines is always going to impress and fascinate. With several thousand years of traditions and expertise leading the way, Spanish wineries are currently producing some of the most flavorful and interesting wines to come out of Europe, striving to overcome the reputation problems the country suffered in the mid to late twentieth century. Despite being one of the largest producers of wine in the world, with billions of bottles being filled each year, Spanish wine producers are more interested in quality over quantity than ever before. The results of this are some truly world class wines rivaling even the finest produce of France in regards to balance, character and flavor, gaining new fans and enthusiasts every day.