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2003 Vintage

The 2003 wines have great traditional tannic structure with attractive ripe fruit flavours - classic Vintage Port. A general declaration.

These wines can be drunk young by those who enjoy a more fruit driven style, but will also age superbly over the decades to come.

Viticultural and Weather Conditions

The weather in the Douro has always been a key factor in the making of great Vintage Port. In 2003 the annual cycle of the vine was exceptionally good: very heavy rain fell from November 2002 into January 2003. Exactly 676 mm was recorded in Pinhão during this period, more than double the ten-year average; this was to prove of crucial importance later in the year.

The flowering took place under very good conditions during mid May, which turned out to be a particularly dry month. Rain fell on the 29th and 30th June and again on 15th July. Once again these heavy showers were to prove critical later.

Then came the famous "hot summer of 2003" - except for the Douro, where it was no hotter than usual. Temperatures rose to a maximum of 42ºC in Pinhão during the first few weeks of August. Persistent heat of this type results in the vine protecting itself by naturally closing down to prevent loss of moisture.

On the 27th and 28th August, 31 mm of rain fell at Pinhão with maximum temperatures of 26º. This rain was heaven sent and played a central role in the quality of the fruit harvested a few weeks later. Perfect ripening weather followed.

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 which began in mid-September.


The 2003 Vintage in the Douro was completed under very successful conditions.

Due to the excellent ripening conditions throughout all of September, baumés were high and fruit arrived at the wineries in perfect condition. However, the warm weather meant the temperatures of the grapes coming into the wineries 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.

2003 was clearly a Touriga Vintage, the heat resistant Nacional enjoying the conditions, giving baumés of around 14º with balanced acidity. The wines are dark, concentrated and elegant in aroma. The Franca, a typically late ripening variety greatly benefited from the warm and dry weather in September achieving excellent baumés of 13-14º in most Quintas. The Barroca in some of the south facing slopes of the Upper Douro suffered with the heat, as might be expected; although overall the variety achieved a high level of phenolic ripeness producing classic powerful and robust wines.

Yields were a little lower than had been predicted in June/July due to the summer heat, but there is no doubt that some classic Ports were made in the Douro in 2003.

Winemaker's Overview

It is rare to have such good weather and the grapes in such good condition. Baumés were not too high and acidity levels were normal, both clear proof that we had not had excessive heat.

Yields were very low as is the norm for the Douro. Barroca made well-structured wines, particularly from the meia-encosta vineyards. The Nacional and Touriga Franca performed particularly well, giving wines with lifted aromas, powerful colour and ripe tannins.

Charles Symington
October 2003

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