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.
In many ways, Hungary is an unlikely candidate for one of Europe's most ideal locations for wine production and viticulture. It enjoys long hot summers, balmy warm autumns and late frosts. Its soils are rich in minerals, fed by the mighty river Danube, and there is a wine culture here which stretches back to the Romans and which influenced the rest of the world. Today, Hungary's wines remain relatively unknown in the wider world, despite their importance in wine history. The sweet and viscous wines of the Tokaj region are a testament to the quality of Hungary's produce â€“ made using noble rot on the vines, they are intense, highly aromatic and quite unlike anything else on earth. Once the favorite of European royalty, Hungarian wines today are something of a well kept secret, enjoyed by serious wine lovers looking for something a little different.