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.
Albarino grapes are very pale in color, and grow best in hot and humid regions. They have their origin in Spain, and are cultivated in huge numbers all over the Iberian coastlines, where they are widely enjoyed and have contributed much to the white wine culture of Spain and Portugal. Today, they are grown in several countries around the world, in regions which have the right climatic conditions in which they can fully ripen and express their unique qualities and characteristics. These light green skinned grapes are prized for their relatively high acid content, which results in tart, sharp wines balanced by their natural flavors of peach and apricot. The grapes produce highly aromatic wines, with a pleasant level of bitterness brought about by the fruit's thick skins.
The region of Galicia in northern Spain is an unusual place for viticulture, with its wet and windy weather and strong Atlantic influences. However, for several hundred years, Galicia was an important center of wine making, and an extremely important center of trade, bringing lots of money to the region which further boosted its reputation, along with the quality and quantity of its wines. However, the 19th century saw a devastating economic collapse in Galicia, and all over the region, vineyards were left to ruin, and wineries closed. Thankfully, the past few decades have seen the region undergo a renaissance, and traditional, quintessentially Galician wines are once more being produced from fine grape varietals native to the region, including the delicate and aromatic Albarino and Caino Blanca, which are often blended to produce characterful and unique wines.
Spanish wines are renowned world-wide for carrying all the passion and character of the Spanish culture within them. Any lover of Spanish wine would undoubtedly be able to confirm this notion, as the variety and range of flavors and aromas coming from the high end of Spanish produce is truly impressive, and continues to delight and fascinate both newcomers and the more experienced. Spain benefits massively from an ideal climate for wine production and vine cultivation, with its long, scorching hot summers and far reaching oceanic breezes working perfectly with the native and imported grape varietals, which thrive on the mineral rich soils that cover much of the country. With centuries of knowledge, and generations of expertise under their belts, Spanish wineries continue to focus on raising the quality of their nation's wines, helped along the way by relatively new laws and regulations regarding regional excellence and representativeness.