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.
Carignan is an ancient blue-skinned grape varietal, thought to be indigenous to the Aragon region of Spain. However, today it is most commonly associated with the fine wines of southern France, and has been grown in many countries around the world which have the warm and dry conditions it requires to thrive. Carignan is recognized as being quite a sensitive vine, highly susceptible to all kinds of rot and mildew, although producing excellent results when given the right conditions and handled correctly. Its high tannin levels and acidity make the Carignan grapes very astringent, and as such, they are often used as a blending grape to give body to other, lesser bodied varietals. Despite this, with careful treatment, Carignan can produce superb single varietal wines packed full of character and unique attributes.
Region: Languedoc Roussillon
Languedoc Roussillon is a fascinating region of France for wine, culture and history. Having over 700,000 acres under vine, Languedoc Roussillon is the single biggest wine region on earth, providing the world with millions of bottles of wine each year. Indeed, the annual output of Languedoc Roussillon alone is larger than that of the United States, and despite the vast quantity of wine it producer, wineries in Languedoc Roussillon have never lost sight of the fact they are dedicated to quality first and foremost. The climate of the region is one of the most ideal on earth for viticulture, with months of blazing sunshine tempered by cooling breezes and plenty of moisture, resulting in wonderfully ripened grapes packed full of fascinating flavors and characteristics.
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.