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.
Merlot is one of those grape varietals which produces wines loved by almost everybody. Single variety Merlot wines tend to be balanced, medium bodied and full of rich and juicy fruit flavors wherever they are produced, which is almost in every wine producing country across the globe. Their wide appeal is partly due to the fact that Merlot, unlike other dark blue grape varietals, have a thinner skin carrying a lower tannin content. This allows wineries to produce wines which are packed full of fruit-forward flavors, and yet have a softer, fleshier and more rounded character making them highly drinkable and easy to pair with a wide variety of foods. As one of the 'Bordeaux varieties', Merlot is used in the production of some of the world's finest and most expensive wines, but is reliable enough and of a high enough quality as a grape to produce a wide range of wines affordable for all.
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.
It isn't difficult to understand why Italy is famed not just for the quality of its wines, but also for the vast variety and range of characteristics found in the wines there. The terrain of the country varies wildly, from the lush rolling green hills and valley of Tuscany, to the sun drenched rocky coasts of Sicily, the mountainous and alpine regions of the north, and the marshy lowlands of the east. Italy really does have a little bit of everything. Combine this huge range of landscapes with an almost perfect climate for grape cultivation, and you have a country seemingly designed for viticultural excellence. The results speak for themselves, and it is clear to see that wine has become an inseparable part of Italian culture as a result of its abundance and brilliance. Each village, city and region has a local wine perfectly matched with the cuisine of the area, and not an evening passes without the vast majority of Italian families raising a glass of locally sourced wine with pride and pleasure.