For wine lovers, there's nothing like the first vino of the year. While vines are just budding in Europe and North America, on the southern side of the planet, the juice from this year's crop is already fermenting in the tanks.
2009 wasn't always easy for Southern Hemisphere producers—parts of both Australia and South Africa grappled with deadly wildfires. But except for a few smoke-tainted grapes, most of the results look fairly promising.
The growing season has much to do with what a wine ultimately tastes like in the glass, and most regions enjoyed steady ripening conditions. In South America, it was a dry, warm year. Things were cooler, but also nice, Down Under and on South Africa's Cape. Producers from the major wine regions have shared with us their experience of the season—what kind of weather they saw, along with what adjustments they may have had to make in the vineyards and cellar as a result—and how they think the finished wines will turn out.
Below are links to full reports on the quality and style of wines you can expect from the 2009 vintage throughout Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.
Argentina: Heat spike hurts Argentine white wines, but reds weather the warmth
Australia: Yields are down in most regions, but a cool, dry season may have produced elegant reds
Chile: A warm and dry year leads to ripe wines and slightly higher yields
New Zealand: A moderate growing season bodes well for the country's reds and whites
South Africa: South Africa's wine regions enjoy a cool, dry season, producing quality across the board