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 thought to have originated in the Aragon region of Spain, but has spread throughout the Old and New worlds due to its unique characteristics and powerful flavors and features. Today, it is most notably cultivated in Languedoc in France, in Algeria, Sardinia and California, where it is most commonly used as a blending varietal, as its strong tannins and high levels of acidity help boost weaker wines and make them more complex. Carignan is often seen as something of a challenging grape varietal for wineries, as although it often produces high yields, it is particularly susceptible to various forms of rot and fungus. However, when handled carefully and given the correct conditions, the results can be stunning.
As one of the most important wine regions in Spain, and indeed in Europe, Catalunya has been producing fine wines for an astonishing length of time. Indeed, there is much archaeological evidence to suggest that grapevines were being cultivated in ancient Catalan vineyards in pre-Roman times, and possibly even before the Pheonician traders first set out to plant vines in many western European countries. Whilst Catalunya is possibly best known for its famous sparkling Cava wines, the two hundred or so wineries in the region actually produce a wide range of red and white still wines, made from plenty of different imported and native grape varietals. As such, Catalunya is a fascinating region for any wine lover, with plenty of enticing, quintessentially Spanish flavors and aromas to discover.
For over two thousand years, Spain has been responsible for much of Europe's wine production, making the very best of native grape varietals, and more recently experimenting with and perfecting wines made from imported grapes. Of course, the region of La Rioja is renowned world-wide for the quality and characteristics of its wines, which benefit greatly from the warm, dry continental climate of the area, and the fertile soils of the Ebro river basin. However, there is far more to Spanish produce than the complex, aromatic and earthy red wine of this region, as a result of the vast range of wine making traditions and practices, and terrains and climatic conditions found across the country. The region Castilla y Leon produces some of Europe's finest white wines, and the sparkling wines of Cava and the sherries of Jerez are firm favorites for wine lovers around the world.