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Vintages in Europe


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Elsewhere I've read an early note on the 2003 Rhones (specifically Chateauneuf) that was rather discouraging. After the washout that was 2002, I was hoping for a nice vintage.

Anybody have any previews?

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Elsewhere I've read an early note on the 2003 Rhones (specifically Chateauneuf) that was rather discouraging. After the washout that was 2002, I was hoping for a nice vintage.

Anybody have any previews?

What few I have tasted have been delicious. Atypical, but delicious. The wines are dense and very forward. The northern appellations did well, too. '03 was such an odd vintage that even the idiots made good wine in that year, much like '02 in Burgundy.

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I tasted '03 Vieux Mas du Pape and '03 Vieux Telegraphe two weeks ago, both were surprisingly drinkable. Not as big or alcoholic as I expected, but still big and alcoholic. Curious to see how others show. What I've tasted from the north (mostly Crozes and St. Joseph) are obviously more fruit-forward than normal but still true to their roots. I hope that's the norm and not the exception.

Don't think they'll be along for the long haul, but good drinking in the near future.

Edited by Johnny Rooks
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I was reading Joe H's post in the 'A-ha' thread:

2003 was a nightmarishly bad year for wine in much of Europe. Incredible, stifling, extreme heat approaching 40 Celsius played cruel and unanticipated tricks with a lot of wine.

I had heard differently, that the vintage for French reds was excellent and that the heat created a more concentrated and vibrant juice. While yields may have been down, quality was excellent. Two vintage charts I dug up seem to agree with this:

Vintage Chart 1

Vintage Chart 2

What is the general consensus on 2003? I am especially interested since I was married in France during this incredibly HOT summer and we have been trying to lay down some 2003s for future anniversary dinners.

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I don't think it was a complete nightmare. Sauternes had a great year from what I have read and some of the Bordeaux's have been rated outstanding, depending on the area and vineyard. Check around, I think WIne Spectator had a couple of articles on the vintage recently.

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I have found that the 2003 vintage varies wildly. Areas that are used to heat every ear (ie Puglia in Italy) fared better than others. Also the very coolest areas (Alto Adige in the alps) had some better wines. The simple stuff, rough and ready peasanty grapes where ripeness can be a problem in many years have been really good in 2003 (ie Barbera).

But as you go up the scale, the finer wines tend to be more problematic as it is hard to get a lot in intensity and concentration when you are dealing with high sugar and low ripeness as many areas had. For example, the 2003 Rosso di Montalcinos are hitting the market right now. The wines are unnaturally ripe. Some are pretty damn good, if not typical. Some are pretty awful. You gotta taste a lot of hot and overpowering wines to find those that are basically a little odd and yet quite yummy.

I have head that wine is made elsewhere in Europe other than Italy, but of such wild rumors I have little personal knowlege. :lol:

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At a barrel tasting I tried a some of the 2003 Spanish wines, they were stunning, and I purchased quite a few futures. Interestingly, I tried a 2003 Cotes du Ventoux and found it to be OK, but found that the 2002 was much better (because most of them were harvested before the big storm, it was the only 2002 Southern Rhone worth buying).

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Some comments from importer Neal Rosenthal:

"All the conversation about the 2003 vintage in France immediately turns to a discussion of the extraordinary heat wave that beset the European continent that summer. Difficult conditions were certainly present but if any viticultural region can handle heat the southern Rhone is the place."

With regards to Burgundy:

"You will find the 2003 vintage to be powerful, richly colored, and very sturdy. Both Barthod and Boillot are of the mind that this vintage will prove to be surprisingly ageworthy. These wines are impressive specimens with plenty of backbone and ripe fruit. The heat and drought that were present during the late summer growing period worked together to produce a very small crop size."

Terry's comments on 2003 in Germany (long since available here):

"I happen to believe it. 2003 is at its best a great vintage, a monument of the German wine culture, and will in the fullness of time become the stuff of legend. Of course there are plain dull wines from ‘03. But think about it: if you‘ve ever been there and visited growers, and if you‘re lucky enough to be given a bottle from the sanctorum to taste, what vintage is it? Very likely a ‘76, and if you‘re really inner-circle material, a ‘59. Thirty years from now your kids will be given 2003s to accord them just the same honor. Those who poohpoohed this vintage, affected to despise it, or simply ignored it are guilty of a supreme piece of short-sighted foolishness."

And some of his brief comments on Austria and Europe in general:

"Somehow I think we'll all be grappling with 2003, no matter what part of Europe we're discussing. It's a vintage defiant of summary, a vintage like some big bag of M&Ms each one another color. Austria was as hot and dry as everyplace else in Europe, though irrigation was often helpful and sometimes decisive. The vintage was either very early or at the normal time or very late. Summed it right up didn't I!"

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I tend to agree with Joe H., though as always I hate to make vintage generalizations. I was in Rhone and Alsace last November, and when the subject of the '03s came up, winemakers invariably gave a Gallic shrug. The vintage is so "atypical" that many of them don't know how to describe it - they can't really compare it to others of recent memory.

So if you find some good wines, enjoy them, but don't think you've learned much about them. Likewise if you don't like them, you shouldn't dismiss those wines from more "classic" vintages.

One place I've found where the heat really helped: Loire reds. These usually suffer from being thin and astringent and have trouble achieving adequate ripeness. No problem in '03!

Comments about the southern Rhone I'd take with a grain of salt - Chateauneuf especially is prone to pruny overripeness even in a balanced vintage. But OK, I'll taste them before I pan them ...

And I'll always defer to Terry Thiese where German wine is concerned. :lol:

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And I'll always defer to Terry Thiese where German wine is concerned.  :lol:

Had any 2000s lately? :huh:

Regarding the 2003s, our conversations usually go something like this:

TT: 'People are missing the boat - 2003 is the next coming of 1959.'

DR: 'So in 45 years these wines are going to be drinking well?'

TT: 'Not 45. 25.'

DR: <checking actuarial timetable and bank-account balance>

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Had any 2000s lately?  :huh:

Regarding the 2003s, our conversations usually go something like this:

TT:  'People are missing the boat - 2003 is the next coming of 1959.'

DR:  'So in 45 years these wines are going to be drinking well?'

TT:  'Not 45.  25.'

DR:  <checking actuarial timetable and bank-account balance>

You're a braver man than I, Gunga Don!

I long ago learned from personal experience with Bobby Kacher that there's nothing more dangerous than describing an importer's wines to the importer. :lol: By definition, I am wrong.

Besides, I tend to learn more from listening than yakking.

So I'll shut up now.

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2003 has produced some stunning wines in Burgundy - both red and white. The reds in many cases are accessable now; the whites, rich and powerful. Bordeaux is trickier. '03 finds many delicious wines from Pomerol and St. Emilion. In the Medoc, acidification was allowed for the first time in history, so instead of generous, juicy, forward wines, there are some tannic monsters. The harvests all over France were severely reduced in '03 - by 60% in some areas. It is a marvelous introduction vintage for red Rhones, in my opinion.

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My friend David Raines, the wine director of the Gordon's chain in Waltham, Mass, sent this report out today which I thought I would share:

*edit: he DID say in the subject line of the email that it was "a wholly preliminary report"

The Gordon's Daily Flash: Friday March 3, 2006

2005

Bordeaux - an easy vegetative season w/o extremes. Terrific reds and dessert whites with even higher levels of botrytis than in 2001

Burgundy - perfect ripeness and balance

Rhône - in the south it's apparently 2004 all over again, but with better quantities. The north was less successful than the south in 2004, but back on form in 2005

Alsace - they're ALL good years in Alsace these days, but 2005 will be especially good

Loire - racy, intensely flavored wines with higher levels of ripeness than the 2004s

Tuscany - a rain year. Not as bad as 2002, but that's apparently the best that can be said

Piedmont - a cut below 2003 and 2004, but not as far below as in Tuscany

Rheinhessen/Pfalz - a good year very similar to 1999

Mosel/Mittelrhein - an unmistakably GREAT year with huge amounts of top quality Auslesen as well as greatly concentrated, perfectly balanced dry wines

I'm sure we'll be talking a LOT about 2005 in the coming years. But we might as well start THINKING about it now.

-David Raines

Gordon's Fine Wine

894 Main Street

Waltham, MA 02451

1-800-696-9463 (MA only)

1-781-893-1900

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At a recent Empson tasting, I had the chance to try a few 2003 Barbaresco. I have also had quite a few 2003 Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco as well as a few from other small producers.

For the most part, they are pleasant wines with a lot of fruit and structure but without a lot of character. A pretty damning description for wines that will be selling for $30 or more wholesale. So far, I have yet to find one that I would actually buy for its price. But there are some exceptions: Ca'Rome Barbaresco Maria di Brun 2003 and Podere Colla Barbaresco Roncaglia 2003. Both of these wines, priced at realtively decent prices, have enough fruit and more importantly, character to be worth it. But 2 wines out of 20 is a pretty poor track record so far. In otherwords, from Piemonte Nebbiolo at least, be wary and don't buy without tasting.

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