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.
The wineries of Bordeaux in France are widely considered to be amongst the finest on earth, with many of the chateaux found on the Left Bank and in the MÃ©doc region routinely demanding enormous prices and being snapped up by collectors looking to add the best examples of the world's white and red wines to their cellars. Bordeaux's secret to success comes from the fact that the terroir of the region is exceptionally rich in minerals, helped by the clay and gravel soils which typify the area and the Gironde river which runs through it. Normally humid in climate, the nearby Atlantic coast supplies cooling breezes, making Bordeaux a winemaker's dream and resulting in extremely high quality grape varietals. For hundreds of years, the wineries of Bordeaux have been mastering the art of wine blending, and today produce a wide range of wine styles using many of the sixteen grape varietals permitted to grow in the region by French law.
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
There are few wine regions in the world quite as famous or respected as France's Bordeaux, and within Bordeaux, the one sub-region which stands head and shoulders above the rest is Saint Emilion. This very special area benefits enormously from both fine climatic conditions and superb soils â€“ mainly clay and gravel based â€“ alongside the nutrients and moisture supplied by the ancient Gironde river. Most wineries in Saint Emilion blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot varietal grapes for the production of their blended red wines, but unblended bottles are also regularly produced, to extremely high standards. The region is one steeped in history and tradition, and remains one of France's premier wine producing regions recognized worldwide for its quality and excellence.