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.
Varietal: Red Bordeaux
The Bordeaux method of blending quality grape varietals is something which has long been imitated and envied around the world. Whilst there are six Bordeaux grape varietals allowed for the production of red wine in this region of France â€“ Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and CarmÃ©nere â€“ the most common and widely used combination involves a careful blend of the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, usually with a small percentage of Petit Verdot to boost the overall flavor and balance things out. This process accentuates the finer points of all these varietals, and takes the astringency of one type whilst rounding it out and mellowing it with the light tannins and fleshiness of another. The results are rarely short of spectacular, and are perfect for oak aging, where the flavorful magic of Bordeaux wine making can really take place, and the complex aromas and characteristics can truly come forward.
Although most commonly associated with their superb blended red wines, the world-famous region of Bordeaux in France is responsible for a relatively wide array of wines, ranging from the sweet and viscous white wines of Sauternes, to the dry and acidic single variety white wines found all over the region. However, it is the red wines which regularly make the wine world's headlines, and have historically been regarded as the finest on earth. The secret to the region's success is the fact that the warm and humid climate, coupled with mineral rich clay and gravel based soils produces grapes of excellent quality. Wineries in this region have spent hundreds of years mastering the art of blending and oak aging in order to get the best results from each grape, and remain the envy of the world to this day.
French winemakers are subjected to several laws and regulations regarding the wines they produce, and how they can be labeled and sold. Such procedures are designed to increase the overall quality of the country's produce, and also to ensure that wines made in each particular region or appellation are of a character and type which is representative of the area. Thankfully for consumers of wine world-wide, the French have a particularly high reputation to uphold, and seem to do so flawlessly. Every year, wineries from all over France produce millions upon millions of bottles of fine wine, making the most of their native grape varieties and the excellent terrain which covers most of the country. From the expensive and exquisite red wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, to the white wines and cremants of central France, the French are dedicated to providing the world with wines of the highest quality and most distinctive character.
Appellation: Saint Emilion
Saint Emilion is a very special sub-region found in France's Bordeaux, and is situated on the highly esteemed and world renowned right bank of the Gironde river. Here, the mineral rich gravel and clay based soils provide plenty of nutrition and character to the grape varietals which are grown, and the warm and sunny climate helps them ripen each year to their fullest. The majority of the chateaus in Saint Emilion produce blended red wines, using a carefully balanced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. The result is something truly wonderful â€“ finely crafted red wines which express all of the finest points of each varietal, and holding plenty of fascinating and complex character, flavors and aromas which have helped make this sub-region one of the best in the world.