Burgundy (Red) - 2003
No one was quite sure of how to predict the future of the earliest vintage for more than 500 years. In fact, it appears to be evolving more slowly than anticipated. All but the very best are enjoyable now.
Like the rest of France, Burgundy's vineyards were on the receiving end of some exceptional weather conditions in 2003. A fairly humid winter gave way to an early spring, prompting early growth of the vines. 'Then,' said Olivier Lamy of Domaine Hubert. "There was a frost, so everything lower down the slopes froze a bit.'
The resumption of mild weather led to an early flowering, which took place three weeks ahead of schedule – then Chassagne and Puligny were hit by a hailstorm. Thankfully, damage was fairly limited and all progressed as normal – until the heat hit. Exceptionally high temperatures were already being registered in June and little rain fell, conditions that prevailed throughout a long, hot summer.
'There was so much extreme heat that some of the grapes on the southwest-facing vines dried out, and areas like Chassagne did badly,' said Lamy. 'Thankfully, east-facing vines escaped damage and cooler climates such as Saint-Aubin did well.’
Unsurprisingly, under the circumstances, harvest started early – so early, in fact, records were set. On the southern fringes of the region, picking began on 13th August, some ten days earlier than the previous record, which was set in 1893. The prolonged heat and drought led to drastically reduced yields right across the region.
The damage caused by the extreme conditions varied according not only to the position of the vines but their age. 'There was a big difference between the old and the young vines,' Lamy said. 'The older the vines, the better they did because their roots are deeper, enabling the plant to access water below ground.'
Overall, yields were down between a third and a half, compared to a normal year.