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Vintage Report by Angelo Gaja / The climate change created high ripening and a complete ripening process with fantastic regularity. This was never seen before.

Before climate change, the only vintages that were perfectly ripe were 1961, 1964, 1971, 1982. Then, the grapes were often unable to naturally reach 12 and 12.5% alcohol level. That’s not a parameter to judge quality. But in those years, many vintages did not reach even 12%. Now with global warming, it is easy to reach 13 and 14%. In Barolo and in Serralunga, now even 15%.

2003 was a most difficult vintage. Nine weeks of very hot weather. We decided to declassify almost 50%. We are quite happy with the 2003 we have in the market. Not a great vintage but a very honorable vintage.

 

Italy Vintage Report by Tb: 2003 was extraordinarily hot and dry, as it was throughout Europe. In Piedmont a difficult four-month stretch of hot weather ended in the cooler temperatures of September. This was the only thing that ensured the aromaticness and sugar-acid balance of the grapes. Consequently, this vintage was saved by the skin of its teeth, ending up in some cases even slightly superior to the 1997 or 2000. 

In Tuscany the spring saw normal temperatures and rainfall. Freezing temperatures at the beginning of April did some damage, reducing the crop yield. This was followed by a long, hot summer, indeed the hottest seen in 150 years. The heat and absence of any moisture threatened to shrivel the plantations, until the September rains saved the crops. These severe weather conditions made this crop yield one of the smallest ever. The ample fruitiness and robust, mature tannins of these wines give them the potential for maturation. In any case, with acid concentrations lower than normal I would not predict as long a life for these wines as, for example, the 1999 and 1997.

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Vintage Report

2003 Vintage Report by Domaine de La Romanée-Conti

In Burgundy, it is not always true that exceptionally stressful climatic conditions can create wines of high quality. Yet, it is what happened in 2003 : despite very abnormal temperatures, this year seems to offer great wines, of which, at the time of devatting, we are only beginning to discover the depth.

The 2002/2003 winter was one of the rainiest in the last ten years. This is very important to underline, because the humidity in the deep soil had certainly an effect on the good condition of the vineyards during the summer.

The bud burst was extremely early, followed by a very cold period at the end of April, which caused some frost in the lower areas and, everywhere, a lot of coulure (flower abortion). In May we already knew that the quantities would be reduced and that the harvest would be early as the vegetation was almost three weeks in advance.

From April 20th, a north wind set in with the following effects : almost no rain until the harvest, fresh nights and mornings in May and June, luminous and warm afternoons, all the ingredients that are necessary for making a great vintage, and most important : an extremely early and rapid flowering. Surprisingly enough in such favourable circumstances, we could observe coulure due to the heat that we had experienced at the time of the flowering. As a result, millerandage was significant at the nouaison (berry set) : the yield would be even more reduced than expected.

It is true that the "chief cook" who, in heaven above, prepared the climatic conditions of the year, overdid it when he put the saucepan on the stove : it is regrettable, we must admit, because the vineyards suffered : some of the grapes which were exposed to sunshine "roasted" and younger vineyards nearly dried up and lost their leaves... But the deeply-rooted older vineyards, in great majority, showed their amazing resistance to drought and extracted an exceptional juice from the suffering that was imposed by the sky in 2003.

While in August indeed the glaciers were melting, the rivers running dry, the crops roasting and the livestock trying to survive, the vineyards received the scorching heat with "philosophy". Sometimes, in the evening, they seemed unusually exhausted after facing the exceptionally hot afternoons, but every following morning they would revive and be ready for photosynthesis.

Whereas we hardly dared go out because of the heat, we were filled with wonder at seeing that the vines had retained all the benefits of the smallest supply of water, of the night freshness, of the morning dew, of the two or three storms that broke in July and August, although they did not bring much rain. Each drop of rain was beneficial and in late August, at the time of the harvest, the vineyards showed very green leaves as well as perfectly ripe grapes.

We started the harvest on August 25th ; the sanitary condition of the grapes was exceptional : not a single rotten berry, small berries as described above, ultra-ripe grapes, sometimes slightly "figgy". The only advice necessary for the pickers was to tell them to remove the few "roasted" grapes and above all not to leave anything behind, the yield was so tiny. The picking took place in the mornings only, because the temperatures were still very high in the afternoon.

Here are the approximate yields :

Romanée-Conti ................... about 16 hl/ha
La Tâche ............................. about 14,5 hl/ha
Richebourg ......................... about 17 hl/ha
Romanée-St-Vivant ............ about 21 hl/ha
Grands-Echezeaux .............. about 13 hl/ha
Echezeaux .......................... about 18 hl/ha

Average for the reds ........... 16,6 hl/ha

Montrachet ......................... about 33 hl/ha

Contrary to what we had feared, the vinifications went well, without any problems. It was of course essential to let the grapes cool down, because they remained warm in spite of the morning picking. This was achieved at the Domaine and fermentations were rich and harmonious, even though, in view of the high polyphenol contents of the grapes, we did not look for long vatings.

Devatting is ending. La Tâche is being barrelled today. It is too early to determine the characteristics of the vintage and its quality level. What we can say today : 2003 will not resemble any other year. Considering the extraordinary colours and the fruity and flowery fragrances that we can smell in the winery, this vintage should rank among the exceptional ones.

In a year, that will remain memorable for its precocity and unusually scorching heat, everybody is asking the same question : shall we prepare for a radical and irreversible climatic evolution ? Dr Lavalle, the author of one of the most famous books on Burgundy wines : "Histoire et statistiques de la vigne et des grands vins de la Côte d'Or" that was published in 1855, had already the same concern and his reply was NO , using as an argument the evolution of the harvest dates since 1366... In 1420, for instance, the harvest began on August 26th in Nuits-St-Georges ! Cyclic evolutions, YES, climatic changes, NO !

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Vintage Report

Napa Valley 2003 / The unpredictable nature of the 2003 growing season began with a series of early heat spikes in March, followed by the wettest April on record. A long cool summer allowed the fruit flavors to evolve beautifully ahead of the sugar accumulation. Heat spikes in September helped move the harvest forward after many felt it would be a late year.

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Bordeaux and Rhône Vintage Reports

2003 was the hottest vintage ever witnessed in Bordeaux. The best-performing châteaux have surpassed their outstanding 2000s and some claim to have made their greatest wines in living memory.

Very dry, extremely hot summer days & nights (16 days > 95°F  vs. 2 in 2000, 6 in 2005, 4 in 2009). Need to eliminate the superscript here. I can’t figure out how to do it.) Deeply colored reds, low acidities & high tannin deviate from classic Left Bank profile. St.-Estèphe, Pauillac are most successful. Reds have largely reached their apogee. Remains a controversial vintage, with strongly divided views as to its intrinsic quality. Harvesting of white grapes started mid-August. Rich, fat whites, some acidified, not for long keeping.

The extreme heat of the summer presented winemakers with a stiff challenge. Sugar levels rose spectacularly in late summer with some producers jumping the gun and harvesting early in order to preserve acidity. However growers who waited until their grapes were fully ripe have been rewarded with darkly coloured, rich concentrated wines displaying astonishing depth of fruit and much complexity.

Generally speaking, the great wines of 2003 have come from the more northerly communes of the Médoc: and in particlular from Pauillac and St. Estèphe. Highlights include LafiteLatourPichon Baron, Montrose and Cos d'Estournel. Quality was patchier in the southern Médoc although Château Margaux, true to form, has produced one of the wines of the vintage.

The Right Bank properties of St Emilion and Pomerol, where temperatures were even hotter, have produced uneven wines and volumes are massively reduced. Vieux Château Certan, which usually produces 4000 cases a year only produced 800 cases last year. Estates that bucked this pattern and produced outstanding wines include FigeacAusoneFetyit Clinet and Angelus.

Graves and Pessac-Lèognan fared better but many chateaux have made wines which are alcoholic and expansive but lack the cool, linear fruit core which marks out the best from 2003. Exceptions are Haut-Bailly, the powerful and concentrated Domaine de Chevalier, and of course the thoroughbred stable of wines from Haut-Brion and La Misson Haut-Brion.

 

Rhône Vintage Report:

NORTHERN RHÔNE: A year of high temperatures & low rainfall. Early, rapid flowering. Localized storms and hail in late July cut crop. Heat shriveled berries in August on most exposed slopes further reducing yields. Early small harvest of healthy grapes with thick skins. Deeply colored, concentrated, potent top reds with “baked” aspect, imposing tannins. Resemble ’83 or ’78 at best; some are over ripe. As with ’03 Bordeaux, divided opinions.

SOUTHERN RHÔNE: Intensely hot from June through end of summer. Lower rainfall. Record temperature of 109° F at Orange. Harvest of white grapes 2 weeks early, reds picked as of late August. Very high sugars, especially inGrenache. Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre performed better as did older vines. Very generous reds, higher alcohols, marked tannin. Some are past peak, now taste “cooked.” Gigondas from cooler sites has aged better. Some impressive Châteauneuf, but not to keep further. Fat, rich whites enjoyable early.

 

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Port Vintage Report by Taylor /Notes on Viticultural Year and Harvest

The Winter preceding the 2003 harvest was very wet with 1,000mm of rain falling in the Pinhão Valley between November and March. This helped to restore reserves of water in the soil following dry conditions the previous year.Flowering took place in bright warm weather at the end of May in some of the best conditions seen for several years. The weather remained fine after flowering, providing an excellent environment for development of the berries. Véraison (colouring of the berries) started relatively early on 1st July but was very slow, taking about three weeks to complete.

 

The first two weeks of August provided the intense Summer heat which often precedes a great port vintage. Temperatures at Quinta de Vargellas varied between 33º and 43ºC and relative humidity below 10%. The second half of August was cooler and two days of light rain occurred with perfect timing at the end of the month to round off the ripening of the grapes. The picking season in September was warm and dry, a critical factor for wine quality.  The vintage started at Quinta de Vargellas on 12th September. Picking started later in the Pinhão Valley, on 18th September at Quinta do Junco and on 22nd at Quinta de Terra Feita.

Yields were very even across all grape varieties, another critical factor, ensuring balance and complexity in the wines. As a result, excellent wines were made throughout the Douro Valley, from the Baixo Corgo in the west to the eastern reaches of the Douro Superior. Winemakers’ notes highlight the very intense colour and large amount of tannin released by the skins during fermentation, as well as the powerful fruitiness of the young wines.

 

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The best wines of the 2003 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 La Grande Année rosé 98.0 Bollinger Champagne, France
2 Ermitage Cuvée Cathelin 97.6 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
3 Ermitage Le Méal 96.6 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
4 Le Pin 96.4 Le Pin Bordeaux, France
5 Château Climens 96.3 Château Climens Bordeaux, France
6 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 96.3 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
7 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 96.3 E.Guigal Rhône, France
8 The Steading 96.0 Torbreck Barossa Valley, Australia
9 Melbury 96.0 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
10 La Romanée 96.0 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
11 Deux Freres 96.0 Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils Chateauneuf du Pape, France
12 Deus ex Machina 96.0 Clos Saint Jean Rhône, France
13 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese 96.0 Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff Nahe, Germany
14 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon 96.0 Ramey Wine Cellars Sonoma Valley, United States
15 Les Carelles Grand Cru Le Mesnil 96.0 Jacques Selosse Champagne, France
16 Hommage à Jacques Perrin 95.8 Château de Beaucastel Rhône, France
17 Steinberger Riesling Tba Goldkapsel 95.7 Kloster Eberbach Rheingau, Germany
18 Château Nairac 95.5 Château Nairac Bordeaux, France
19 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 95.5 Shafer Vineyards Napa Valley, United States
20 Château de Fargues 95.5 Château de Fargues Sauternes, France
21 Corton-Charlemagne 95.5 Coche Dury Burgundy, France
22 Chardonnay "Cuvée Cathleen" 95.5 Kistler California, United States
23 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal Blanc 95.5 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
24 Château Latour 95.4 Château Latour Bordeaux, France
25 Château Raymond-Lafon 95.3 Château Raymond-Lafon Bordeaux, France
26 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 95.3 Quilceda Creek Washington, United States
27 Pétrus 95.1 Château Pétrus Pomerol, France
28 Lafite-Rothschild 95.0 Château Lafite-Rothschild Bordeaux, France
29 IX Estate 95.0 Colgin Cellars Napa Valley, United States
30 Riesling G-Max 95.0 Weingut Keller Rheinhessen, Germany
31 Chambertin 95.0 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
32 Pavie 95.0 Château Pavie Bordeaux, France
33 Scharzhofberger TBA 95.0 Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof Saar, Germany
34 Kiedricher GräfenBerg Auslese 95.0 Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau, Germany
35 Sublime Isolation 95.0 Sine Qua Non California, United States
36 Hermitage 95.0 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
37 Pinot Noir "Seven Springs" Vineyard 95.0 Bethel Heights Vineyard Oregon, United States
38 RunRig 95.0 Torbreck Barossa Valley, Australia
39 Grands Echézeaux 95.0 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
40 Almaviva 95.0 Viña Almaviva Puente Alto, Chile
41 Amarone della Valpociella 95.0 Quintarelli Giuseppe Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy
42 Châteauneuf-du-Pape 95.0 Château de Beaucastel Rhône, France
43 Sori Tildin 95.0 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
44 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée da Capo 95.0 Domaine du Pegau Rhône, France
45 Montrachet 94.8 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
46 d'Yquem 94.7 Château d'Yquem Bordeaux, France
47 La Tâche 94.7 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
48 Krug Clos du Mesnil 94.6 Krug Champagne, France
49 Nacional Vintage Port 94.5 Quinta do Noval Douro, Portugal
50 Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 94.5 István Szépsy Tokaj-Hegyalja, Hungary
51 Papa 94.5 Sine Qua Non California, United States
52 Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard 94.5 Alban Vineyards California, United States
53 Scharzhofberger Auslese 94.5 Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof Saar, Germany
54 Vin de Paille 94.5 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
55 Pluribus 94.3 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
56 Château Cos d'Estournel 94.3 Château Cos d'Estournel Bordeaux, France
57 Scharzhofberger Auslese Goldkapsel 94.0 Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof Saar, Germany
58 Millésimé 94.0 Champagne de Castelnau Champagne, France
59 Dom Pérignon P2 Rosé 94.0 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
60 Château Guiraud 94.0 Château Guiraud Bordeaux, France
61 Saarburger Rausch Riesling Spatlese 94.0 Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken Saar, Germany
62 ‘Traditionale’ Riesling 94.0 Pikes South Australia, Australia
63 Bonnezeaux 94.0 Château de Fesles Loire, France
64 Colgin Cariad 94.0 Colgin Cellars Napa Valley, United States
65 Graacher Domprobst Riesling Eiswein 94.0 Weingut Markus Molitor Mosel, Germany
66 Clos du Mesnil Vinothèque 94.0 Krug Champagne, France
67 St. Eden 94.0 Bond Estate Napa Valley, United States
68 Basket Press Shiraz 94.0 Rockford South Australia, Australia
69 Richebourg 94.0 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
70 Château d´Ampuis 94.0 E.Guigal Rhône, France
71 Brunello di Montalcino 94.0 Soldera Montalcino, Italy
72 Dominus 94.0 Dominus Estate Napa Valley, United States
73 Polish Hill Riesling 94.0 Grosset Wines South Australia, Australia
74 Château Haut-Brion Blanc 94.0 Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
75 Château Hosanna 94.0 Château Hosanna Bordeaux, France
76 Randersackerer Teufelskeller Riesling Spätlese trocken 94.0 Weingut Bürgerspital zum Heiligen Geist Würzburger Stein, Germany
77 Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese 94.0 Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken Saar, Germany
78 Borgogno Barolo Riserva 94.0 Borgogno Piedmont, Italy
79 Scharzhofberger Spätlese 94.0 Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof Saar, Germany
80 Barolo Riserva Rocche di Castiglione 94.0 Terre del Barolo Piedmont, Italy
81 Richebourg 94.0 Domaine Anne & François Gros Burgundy, France
82 Montrachet 94.0 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
83 Hermitage Blanc 94.0 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
84 Krug Vintage 94.0 Krug Champagne, France
85 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 93.9 E.Guigal Rhône, France
86 Montrose 93.9 Château Montrose Bordeaux, France
87 Cuvée L'Apôtre 93.5 David Léclapart Champagne, France
88 Dom Pérignon Rosé 93.5 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
89 Château de Valandraud 93.5 Château Valandraud St.Emilion, France
90 San Leonardo 93.5 Tenuta San Leonardo Trentino , Italy
91 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron 93.5 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron Bordeaux, France
92 Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling TBA Goldkapsel 316 93.5 Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau, Germany
93 Château Margaux 93.4 Château Margaux Bordeaux, France
94 La Mission Haut Brion 93.3 Château La Mission Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
95 Astralis 93.3 Claredon Hills South-Australia, Australia
96 Château Mouton-Rothschild 93.3 Château Mouton-Rothschild Bordeaux, France
97 Château Suduiraut 93.2 Château Suduiraut Bordeaux, France
98 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc 93.1 Domaine de Chevalier Pessac Leognan, France
99 Montrachet 93.0 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
100 Millésimé 93.0 Jacques Selosse Champagne, France

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