2007 was the year that saw California's wine industry pick up once again, after a troubling couple of years. Indeed, all across the state of California, fantastic harvests were reported as a result of fine weather conditions throughout the flowering and ripening periods, and Napa Valley and Santa Barbera wines were widely considered amongst the best in the world in 2007, with Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes packing in all sorts of fine and desirable features in this year. South Africa, too, had a much-needed fantastic year for red wines, with Pinotage particularly displaying strong characteristics, alongside the country's other flagship red wine grape varietals.
Over in Europe, France had another fine year, especially for white wines. Champagne wineries were very happy with their Chardonnay harvests, and the Loire Valley and Graves in Bordeaux are proclaiming 2007 to be a memorable year due to the quality of their white wine grapes. For French red wines, Provence had their best year for almost a decade, as did the Southern Rhone. However, 2007 was most favorable to Italy, who saw high yields of exceptional quality across almost all of their major wine producing regions. Tuscany is claiming to have produced its best Chianti and Brunello wines for several years in 2007, and Piedmont and Veneto had a wonderful year for red wines. For Italian white wines, 2007 was an extremely successful year for Alto Adige and Campania. Germany also had a very good 2007, with Riesling displaying extremely dry and crisp characteristics, as did Portugal, where Port wine from 2007 is said to be one to collect.
In its native Italy, Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape varietal, and has been for several centuries now. It has since spread to several other countries around the world, but will probably always been most readily associated with the rolling hillscapes of Tuscany. It isn't difficult to understand why it is so revered; alone, in single variety bottles, young Sangiovese is lively, full of fresh summer fruits flavors and beautifully drinkable in its lightness. When aged, it has the special ability to soak up the oak and vanilla or chestnut flavors from the barrel, and delights wine drinkers with its complexity and many layers of character. However, the grape does occasionally cause some difficulty for wine makers, as it is one which holds a high acidity, whilst being light on tannins and body. As such, wine makers have experimented greatly with the Sangiovese grapes, from harvesting very low yields to blending it and aging it in different ways in order to make the most of its unique properties. The results are rarely short of spectacular, and Sangiovese is widely recognized as a grape varietal to look out for if you are searching for quality.
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.