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.
Whilst there remains plenty of debate over which is the 'correct' name for the Shiraz/Syrah grape varietal, nobody is in any doubt about the influence and popularity this grape has had over recent decades. For centuries, this varietal has been used in single variety and blended wines in the regions of France it is most closely associated with, yet the 20th century saw it become one of the definitive grape varietals of New World red wines, where its big, robust character and spicy, berry-rich flavors proved to be a hit with international audiences. Today, Shiraz/Syrah is said to be the seventh most widely planted grape varietal in the world, and is used for a remarkably wide variety of quality red wines â€“ including still, sparkling and fortified varieties.
All over the stunning region of Tuscany in central Italy, you'll see rolling hills covered in green, healthy grapevines. This region is currently Italy's third largest producer of wines, but interestingly wineries here are generally happy with lower yields holding higher quality grapes, believing that they have a responsibility to uphold the excellent reputation of Tuscany, rather than let it slip into 'quantity over quality' wine-making as it did in the mid twentieth century. The region has a difficult soil type to work with, but the excellent climate and generations of expertise more than make up for this problem. Most commonly, Tuscan vintners grow Sangiovese and Vernaccia varietal grapes, although more and more varietals are being planted nowadays in order to produce other high quality wine styles.
There are few countries in the world with a viticultural history as long or as illustrious as that claimed by Italy. Grapes were first being grown and cultivated on Italian soil several thousand years ago by the Greeks and the Pheonicians, who named Italy 'Oenotria' â€“ the land of wines â€“ so impressed were they with the climate and the suitability of the soil for wine production. Of course, it was the rise of the Roman Empire which had the most lasting influence on wine production in Italy, and their influence can still be felt today, as much of the riches of the empire came about through their enthusiasm for producing wines and exporting it to neighbouring countries. Since those times, a vast amount of Italian land has remained primarily for vine cultivation, and thousands of wineries can be found throughout the entire length and breadth of this beautiful country, drenched in Mediterranean sunshine and benefiting from the excellent fertile soils found there. Italy remains very much a 'land of wines', and one could not imagine this country, its landscape and culture, without it.