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: Champagne Blend
There are few areas in the world with a reputation quite as famous and respected as that of Champagne in France, and almost every wine region on earth has imitated or has been influenced by the careful process mastered by the wineries of Champagne. However, it is in the grape varietals which thrive in this region where the secrets to the Champagne's success can be found â€“ the acidic, flavorful Chardonnay grapes meeting the characterful Pinot Noir varietal, and coming together to produce something wonderful in the bottle. There are actually seven varietals allowed by French wine law for the production of Champagne wines, all of which are used by wineries to accentuate each others finest points and maintain the reputation of this very special region, the home to some extremely high quality grapes.
The southern Italian region of Puglia, known as the 'heel' of the country, is home to Italy's most up and coming wineries, keen to demonstrate to the world that the poor reputation they had in the seventies and eighties no longer applies. The wines of Puglia are certainly full of character, often big, bright and juicy, and full of strong dark fruit flavours. The Puglian wines are also renowned for being slightly more alcoholic and structured than those found further north, giving wine drinkers plenty to experience and discuss when sampling the region's complex and fascinating wares. Puglia is, in essence, a region of deep traditions, and the wine makers there are determined to stick to their traditional techniques and methods, and keep the unique identity of Puglian wine alive in the twenty first century.
For several decades in the mid to late twentieth century, Italy's reputation for quality wines took a fairly serious blow. This was brought about partly due to lack of regulation in certain regions, and too much regulation in others. This led to several wineries in the beautiful and highly fertile region of Tuscany making the bold move to work outside of the law, which they saw as responsible for the drop in quality in Tuscan wines. They believed that they had the expertise and the generations of experience necessary with which to make truly excellent, world class wines, and set about doing just that. These 'Super Tuscans', as they came to be known, quickly inspired the rest of Italy to improve their produce, and now, Italian wine producers in the twenty-first century are widely recognised to be amongst the best in the world. Regulation and law began to change, and wine drinkers across the globe woke up to the outstanding wines coming out of Italy, which are continuing to improve and impress to this day.