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First and foremost, 2003 has been a very hot year; even the most elderly winemakers cannot remember a comparable year, a fact confirmed by the meteorologists. During the vines vegetative cycle from 1 April to 30 September, the average temperature was more than 2.5°C above normal. For long periods (the second half of April, all of June, 10 to 25 July and the first half of August), temperatures were 4°C to 10°C above normal.
These high temperatures have had a favorable influence on quality. Quantitatively however, parcels of young vines suffered burned leaves and grapes sometimes resulting in significant losses.
Yet 2003 was not a year of excessive drought: timely rain in the appellations (from 30 June to 4 July and 17 August) provided sufficient watering of the vines for the qualitative evolution of the grapes.
Grapes ripened nearly 3 weeks in advance.
Our typical September weather pattern began in late August: cool nights, morning dew and warm afternoons. The ripening process slowed to a normal rate exercising a very positive effect on quality.
Sugar levels continued to climb right through the harvest, often achieving concentrations rarely obtained in our vineyards. Acidity, which was low at the beginning, stabilized at lower levels than those of recent years but without compromising the wines’ balance.
These conditions were beneficial for aroma development in the white wines and color formation and good tannins in the reds.
Starting 19 August in Reuilly, the harvest period (for the most part) was the first three weeks of September: Quincy from the first days of September, followed by Coteaux du Giennois and Châteaumeillant, then Sancerre and Menetou-Salon where the last grapes were harvested on 25 September.
Harvesting took place under sunny skies. Grapes had beautiful coloring – golden Sauvignon Blanc, red grape varieties were quite dark – and the grapes displayed perfect health.
Marked by the sun, the 2003 wines can sometimes be surprising. The wines made from the very ripest grapes recall the styles of memorable years such as 1959 or 1947.
They reveal wonderful aromas that express themselves with reserve, yet affirm their great delicacy and should hold up well over time. The mouth is supple in contrast to the vivacity of recent vintages. Wines made from grapes harvested at extreme maturity are rich, full on the palate and fleshy; the alcohol compensating for the low acidity.
They show superb robes with deep ruby-violet colors. Full-bodied, their tannins are robust and some are already revealing mellow tones. Aromas are of very ripe fruits, sometimes mingling fragrances of stewed fruits and spices.
The 2003 vintage will be easy to appreciate soon and some of the finest red and white cuvees should have exceptional cellaring potential.