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.
For millennia, the Tempranillo grape varietal has been esteemed and revered by winemakers in their native Spain. These grapes are packed full of intense and fascinating flavors, often rewarding wine drinkers with notes of tobacco, leather, plum and herbs alongside their spicy and full bodied character. Their thick, black skins result in their wines being very deep red in color, and often high in tannins. As such, Tempranillo grapes are usually blended with other fine varietals to produce exceptionally balanced and delicious blended wines, such as those found in La Riot and other important wine regions around the world. Despite them being a notoriously tricky varietal to grow, their popularity continues to increase, and winemakers continue to impress the world with this excellent example of a red wine grape.
Region: La Rioja
The wines of La Rioja have been famed throughout the world for many centuries, due to their excellence of flavor and deep, complex character. La Rioja is a green and fertile region of Spain, situated on the north of the country, yet sheltered from the cold and wet Atlantic oceanic influences by the expansive Cantabrian mountain range near the coast. La Rioja's most famous and widely loved grape varietal is the Tempranillo, which is grown in the majority of the vineyards in the region. However, many of the best wines of La Rioja are blended varieties, often featuring the aromatic Garnacha varietal for added perfume. The region also produces several extremely fine white wines, usually made from the Viura varietal grape, which are aged in barrels for extra flavor and aroma.
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.