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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 blended red wines of Bordeaux have gone down in history as the finest wines every produced, with collectors and many of the general public still eagerly anticipating the wineries of this region's new releases to this day. The secret to Bordeaux's monumental success has been their careful blending of high quality grape varietals, controlled and protected by French law. In Bordeaux, wineries can only produce red wines using a blend of two or more of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec or CarmÃ©nere grape varietals, with the latter two becoming less and less commonly seen on bottles. The vast majority of Bordeaux red wines use Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape varietals, boosted by a little Petit Verdot. These three grapes compliment each other beautifully as they age in oak, rounded out their tannins and the high astringency of the Sauvignon, and resulting in wonderfully complex flavors and aromas.
Of all the wine regions in France, the mostly highly esteemed and famous is surely Bordeaux. Most commonly associated with their superb examples of blended red wines, usually made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot varietals, Bordeaux consistently demonstrates that their mix of traditional and modern wine-making styles is the recipe for fame and success. The region benefits greatly from its humid climate, and the fact that its clay and gravel based soils are perfect for growing the fine grape varietals which flourish there. The region is split into quite distinct sub-regions, with the finest generally believed to be the Left Bank and the MÃ©doc region, where many of the most well known chateaux are based and produce their wonderful red and white wines.
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.