Despite less than ideal climatic conditions, featuring storms which threatened an otherwise perfect year, most parts of California had an excellent year for viticulture. Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs were picked at optimum ripeness, and Californian white wine was just about as good as it could be. Surprises and overcoming difficulties summed up much of the United States' wine industry in 2009, and many of the results from Oregon, Washington State and all over California speak for themselves, with the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon grapes having developed healthy, thick skins and thus plenty of character and distinction. Elsewhere in the New World, South Africa had a very good year in 2009, and wineries across the cape of the African continent are proclaiming it a truly great vintage.
In most of Europe, fine weather and punctual ripening periods produced some excellent wines, with many of the best coming out of France's Bordeaux and the surrounding regions. Merlot had an exceptionally good year in France, and wineries are proclaiming that the 2009 Merlot harvest was one of the best in living memory. Indeed, across most of France, ripening was relatively even, and red wine grapes such as Cabernet Franc, Syrah and others were reportedly highly characterful, with plenty of the required tannin levels with which to make high quality wines. Italy, too, had a very good 2009. Piedmont reported extremely favorable conditions throughout 2009, and their signature Nebbiolo grapes were more or less perfect when harvested, having benefited from the slight drop in temperature at the end of their ripening period. Veneto, too, had an enviable year, producing superb Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay wines in 2009.
Muscat varietal grapes are surely one of the most versatile wine grapes in the world. In dozens of countries across Europe and the New World, they are used for the production of everything from fine, fruity dry wines, to elegant sparkling examples and even dense, aromatic fortified wines of exceptional character and flavor It is a favorite with winemakers and vintners worldwide as a result of its hardiness and the high yields the vines routinely produce, and grows in a wide range of terroirs and climatic conditions. Such conditions have a considerable effect on the grapes themselves, which is part of the reason why Muscat wines are so varied when it comes to flavor, aroma and characteristics. Generally, Muscat wines are recognizable as a result of their strong, fresh and distinctly 'grapey' flavor, making them popular with those looking for a simple yet elegant wine easily paired with many different foods.
The beautiful southern Italian region of Puglia is a particularly fascinating wine region for fans of modern Italian produce. For much of the twentieth century, the region was considered one associated primarily with the kind of mass produced, dull Italian wine which almost cost the country its reputation in the 1970s. However, Puglian wine makers today are determined to prove to the world that their wineries and native grape varietals can match those of Italy's more famous regions, and have been on a mission to produce stunning wines made in the traditional, distinctive Puglian style. This generally means wines with big characters, a relatively high alcohol content, and plenty of dark, deep, complex fruit flavors and aromas; wines which are unique, made with traditional methods and techniques, and which are utterly delicious and inviting.
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.