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2003 Vintage Notes (October 23, 2003)

The heat wave that burned through Europe this summer has made for one of the earliest harvests on record. Pascal Marchand, winemaker at Domaine de la Vougeraie in Burgundy (and soon to be consulting winemaking at Vincor's Clos Jordan winery), tells me that his wines were in the barrel in mid-August. Compared with the 2002 harvest in Burgundy, where both volume and quality were high, 2003 is noteworthy for its low yields. Some Burgundian produces say the drop may be as much as 50 per cent.

But the early ripeness of the harvest may not make for "The Vintage of the Century" that some critics suggest. High sugars mean low acids that translate into wines that are not for long cellaring.

Bordeaux, the yardstick when it comes to assessing vintage quality, began harvesting on August 12th, the earliest since 1893. According to Jancis Robinson, wine grown under these conditions of such intense, dry heat "run the danger of being almost too tough and concentrated with some dried-out flavours." If the balance of acidity, fruit and alcohol is there, some top Bordeaux châteaux may just get a wine like the legendary, port-like Cheval Blanc 1947.

By contrast, California's 2003 summer has been on the cool side (which allows acids to develop). Harvest was two weeks later than normal in some areas, which allowed extra hang time for late-ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

In British Columbia, in spite of the fires that destroyed part of St. Hubertus Winery, prognostications are for a great vintage because of the long, hot growing season with high tonnage.

In Ontario, it's been a challenging year, following the coldest winter in 30 years and a cool spring. The warm August and September and late sunshine in October have rescued the quality of the crop.

 

 

 

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