Vintage Report 2003
Overall, the year began with a short period of very cold temperatures in January, followed by a relatively mild winter. There was an abundance of precipitation in December (twice as much as in the year before), January (50% above average), and February - the charts at the end of the report provide full details. In retrospect, this was a great blessing, considering the warm, dry weather throughout spring and summer. Key events in the growth cycle were all ahead of schedule. Bud break was in early April, about 10 days earlier than normal, and the vineyards were verdant soon thereafter. Flowering, an exremely critical factor, started on June 3, some 16 days earlier than the 30-year average and even earlier than in the superb vintages of 1976 (June 13) and 1959 (June 7). Flowering conditions were perfect and the grapes developed beautifully. Water supplies were still sufficient throughout most of the Rheingau at this time.
In the period from March to October, particularly in August, there was a record-breaking number of sunshine hours - the highest number since 1900, when weather data began to be recorded on a regular basis. Here, too, 2003 surpassed the famed vintage years 1976, 1959, 1949 and 1921 (see the charts below).
As a result, Riesling and Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) matured quickly and we began harvesting well ahead of schedule. We started to pick Pinot Noir on September 11, and Riesling on September 23, at a steady, but unhurried, pace. Except for the grapes left for a possible Eiswein harvest in the Engelmannsberg site (Hattenheim), the entire crop was in the cellar by October 25.
Average starting must weights were higher than ever before - primarily 95 degrees Oechsle and above. Thanks to the high natural sugar levels of the grapes in the Nussbrunnen site (Hattenheim) and the Berg Rottland site (Rüdesheim), we were able to produce lusciously sweet Auslese, Beeren- and Trockenbeerenauslese - the latter with a sugar level in excess of 276 degrees Oechsle.
These extraordinary results were capped with an Eiswein harvest (138 degrees Oechsle) on December 8, in the Engelmannsberg site (Hattenheim), where we have harvested Eiswein for six consecutive years.
The first tasting of the young wines confirms our high expectations of the overall quality of the vintage: the wines are remarkably concentrated and well-balanced, with very clean flavors. Vintage 2003 will definitely help us meet the worldwide growing demand for fine German Riesling wines.