The 2003 Vintage in the Douro was completed under very successful conditions. The heat that hit most of the European vineyards also affected the Douro but was not excessive and followed a relatively mild June and July. The highest temperature recorded was 42?C on the 7th 8th and 9th August, which is not much higher than normal for this period of the year.
The 2002/3 winter had been very wet, over 229mm was recorded in January 2003 (compared to 115mm in January 2002). This unusually heavy winter rainfall was vital and allowed the vines to develop well during the dry summer months. Budding and fruit-set took place under very good conditions and a reasonably large crop was foreseen. Rain fell in the Douro on 29th and 30th June and again on 15th July. Once again these heavy showers were vital to prepare the vines for the August heat.
It is well known that rainfall a few weeks prior to picking is a perfect scenario. This year the hoped for rain came on the 27th and 28 August with 30mm. This was ideal for the vines that had endured a long hot month. Those planning a very early vintage were wise to put off the starting dates to allow the humidity to benefit the fruit. The weather cleared and warm and dry weather continued virtually unchanged throughout the picking.
Grahamís started its harvest at Quinta dos Malvedos on the 15th September, just one day earlier than the 2002. Due to the hot weather conditions, temperatures of the grapes coming into the winery were high, particularly in the afternoons. Those wineries without cooling equipment were in some difficulty, with fermentation temperatures going well beyond sensible levels if the wine was not drawn off early. Quinta dos Malvedosí fully temperature controlled robotic lagares performed extremely well under these conditions, producing some really outstanding wines.
Some rain fell on 30th September, but not enough to do more than inconvenience the pickers. Sunny dry weather returned after a few days and the vintage finished under perfect weather conditions. The late ripening Touriga Franca (accounting for some 34% of the vines planted at Malvedos) proved particularly successful, as the excellent vintage conditions, allowed picking to be delayed until the beginning of October with high sugar readings of 13.5 Baume.
Although yields were a little lower than had been predicted in June/July due to the summer heat, there is no doubt that some very good Ports have been made in the Douro this year.