2010 saw extremely high quality viticulture in many parts of the world, with an exceptionally long and hot summer providing huge benefits for wineries across many countries, especially in the southern hemisphere. The northern hemisphere and Europe saw something of a cooler summer and flowering period, but this was by no means as disastrous as it could have been. France, especially, had a fantastic year in 2010, with the world renowned Burgundy region proclaiming that their white wines of this year are ones to look out for, and despite yields being relatively small across much of the country, the quality was exceptionally high. Spain, too, received some cooler weather, but Rioja and the rest of central Spain are hailing 2010 as a very good year indeed, again as a result of smaller, finer yields. California also received similar climatic conditions, but again, wineries are highly positive about the overall effect this had on their produce, as the slightly challenging conditions resulted in smaller yields of much elegance and distinction.
2010 was really Australia's year, and in South Australia and across the Mornington Peninsula, Chardonnay vines produced good yields with a lower sugar level than in previous years. As such, the majority of South Australian white wines from 2010 are superb, and packed full of character. Shiraz also had a great year, and most Australian wineries have been proclaiming 2010 one of the great vintages. Both the Argentinian and Chilean wine industries benefited from some ideal climatic conditions this year, and are reportedly ecstatically pleased with the fact that their 2010 wines ended up with lower alcohol levels, and were beautifully balanced wines packed full of flavor.
Merlot is one of those grape varietals which produces wines loved by almost everybody. Single variety Merlot wines tend to be balanced, medium bodied and full of rich and juicy fruit flavors wherever they are produced, which is almost in every wine producing country across the globe. Their wide appeal is partly due to the fact that Merlot, unlike other dark blue grape varietals, have a thinner skin carrying a lower tannin content. This allows wineries to produce wines which are packed full of fruit-forward flavors, and yet have a softer, fleshier and more rounded character making them highly drinkable and easy to pair with a wide variety of foods. As one of the 'Bordeaux varieties', Merlot is used in the production of some of the world's finest and most expensive wines, but is reliable enough and of a high enough quality as a grape to produce a wide range of wines affordable for all.
All over the stunning region of Tuscany in central Italy, you'll see rolling hills covered in green, healthy grapevines. This region is currently Italy's third largest producer of wines, but interestingly wineries here are generally happy with lower yields holding higher quality grapes, believing that they have a responsibility to uphold the excellent reputation of Tuscany, rather than let it slip into 'quantity over quality' wine-making as it did in the mid twentieth century. The region has a difficult soil type to work with, but the excellent climate and generations of expertise more than make up for this problem. Most commonly, Tuscan vintners grow Sangiovese and Vernaccia varietal grapes, although more and more varietals are being planted nowadays in order to produce other high quality wine styles.
It isn't difficult to understand why Italy is famed not just for the quality of its wines, but also for the vast variety and range of characteristics found in the wines there. The terrain of the country varies wildly, from the lush rolling green hills and valley of Tuscany, to the sun drenched rocky coasts of Sicily, the mountainous and alpine regions of the north, and the marshy lowlands of the east. Italy really does have a little bit of everything. Combine this huge range of landscapes with an almost perfect climate for grape cultivation, and you have a country seemingly designed for viticultural excellence. The results speak for themselves, and it is clear to see that wine has become an inseparable part of Italian culture as a result of its abundance and brilliance. Each village, city and region has a local wine perfectly matched with the cuisine of the area, and not an evening passes without the vast majority of Italian families raising a glass of locally sourced wine with pride and pleasure.