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.
The Carmenere grapes have a long and illustrious history in their native France, and are still used today by a select few wineries for the production of the exceptionally fine blended Bordeaux wines, widely considered to be the best in the world. However, it has been in the New World where Carmenere has seen the largest developments, with plenty of countries cultivating these grapes to make the most of their fine and unique characteristics. Carmenere grapes carry a beautiful dark red color, and pack a real punch with their intense flavors of chocolate, sour cherries, pepper and leather. They are particularly aromatic, and the single variety wines made from Carmenere are widely regarded to be amongst the most interesting to come out of countries in South America, particularly, over the past few decades.
Veneto has, for hundreds of years, been one of Italy's most important wine regions, and many of the finest wineries and appellations near the Adriatic coast have reached levels of international fame and recognition unmatched by other parts of the country. Amarone, Valpolicella and Bardolino DOC regions are all widely understood to be amongst the best places in the world for flavorful, complex and interesting red wines, and the white Soave wines produced on the foothills of the Alps are enjoyed across the globe for their clarity and crispness. The region benefits from a range of micro-climates, protected from the harsh central European winters by the mountain range, and the generations of expertise and dedication to quality and innovation shown by the hundreds of wineries in the region.
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.