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.
The pale skinned fruits of the Riesling grapevine have been grown in and around Germany's Rhine Valley for centuries, and contributed much to the country's wine culture. Today, Riesling grapes are grown and processed in several countries around the world, where they are prized for their ability to grow well in colder climates, and their unique flavors and characteristics. Riesling grapes produce an impressive array of wines, including fine semi sweet and dessert wines, to excellent dry white wines and sparkling varieties, all which allow the grape to shine through as a premier example of an excellent white wine varietal. One of the things which makes Riesling such a special grape is the fact that it is highly 'terroir expressive', meaning that the features of the land it is grown on can come across well in the flavors and aromas in the wine. As such, it isn't unusual to find flavors of white stone, or smoky ash-like notes in a fine Riesling alongside the more usual orchard fruit flavors more commonly associated with good white wines.
Region: Rheingau / Rheinhessen
Rheingau in Germany is one of the country's most prodigious and well respected wine regions, with the south facing slopes of the mountains in the area producing Riesling grape vines of exceedingly high quality. The region has a wine making history which stretches back for centuries, and the wineries of Rheingau have long since mastered the art of expressing the beautiful, windswept and mineral rich terroir through their characterful white wines. With only three thousand hectares of Rheingau being under vine, the region is relatively small, yet has been home to many of the country's finest wines, and a large proportion of the most important viticultural innovations of Germany. Whilst Riesling is by far the most popular grape varietal in Rheingau, Pinot Noir is also grown quite widely, and today, many wineries are continuing to experiment with new grape varietals in order to make a wider range of wines.
If German wine has had something of a bad reputation in the past, it may well be the fault of the fact that for a long time now, the Germans have simply kept all the best produce to themselves. Visit any town or village in wine producing regions of Germany, and you'll be faced with a stunning array of extremely high quality wines, each matched with local dishes and full of distinct character and flavor. As white wine production makes up for about two-thirds of all Germany's wine industry, this is by far the most visible and widely enjoyed type of wine, but one should not overlook the quality and range of rosÃ© and red wines on offer from this fascinating country. In particular, the Spatburgunder wines (the German name for Pinot Noir) are generally of an exceptionally high quality, being full of dark, intense hedgerow fruit flavors and exciting spicy notes with a silky smooth finish.