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.
Hungary is a country not always readily associated with wines and viticulture, and yet this central European country has one of the most unique and important wine cultures in the Old World. The regions around Lake Balaton produce many of the most elegant and flavorful white wines to be found anywhere, characterized by their slight sweetness and flavors of elderflower and gooseberry. However, it is the historic Tokaj region which really shines as Hungary's premier wine producing area, as this is the home to the 'noble rot' wines which carry such interesting and unique flavors and aromas, adored by serious wine lovers worldwide and influencing vintners across the globe. Tokaji wines tend to be slightly viscous, and packed full of surprising notes of marzipan, dried apricot and candied peel, and are a great example of Hungary's exciting wine culture and history.