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 region of France consistently enjoys the reputation of being the finest region for wine making in the world. But what is it that makes this area around the Gironde river so special? The secret lies in their ancient and careful blend of no more than six high quality, flavorful and unique grape varietals. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and CarmÃ©nere are all permitted for usage in the production of Bordeaux wines, and the winery carefully considers how to balance the fine points of one varietal against another. Most commonly, Cabernet Sauvignon is used as the main grape varietal, usually with vintners making wines containing upwards of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon grape juices. This varietal lends its big, spicy, fruity flavors and astringent, tannin-heavy character to the mix. Normally, this strong varietal is then tempered and rounded by Merlot, a fleshy, fruity and far lighter bodied grape, containing far fewer tannins and a much brighter flavor The blended wines are normally left to age in oak, where they can continue to work together and produce their wonderful results.
The Bordeaux region of France is possibly the most famous and widely respected wine region in the world. Known primarily for its exceptional blended red wines, made most commonly with Cabernet Sauvigon, Merlot and Petit Verdot grape varietals, it also produces superb dry white wines (both blended and single variety), alongside the highly esteemed sweet wines of Sauternes. All of these wine types use a careful mix of traditional wine-making methods alongside modern techniques, as well as more experimental and unorthodox practices such as turning their grapes over to the noble rot which intensifies the flavors in the sweet wines. Bordeaux benefits greatly from its position amongst wide river basins, and the cooling Atlantic breezes which blow across the rolling vineyards which cover this region.
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.