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Drinkaware

Vintage Year Reports

Argentina
Australia
Austria
California
Central and Southern Italy
Chile
Germany
Great Britain
Greece
Israel
New Zealand
Northern Italy
Portugal
South Africa
Spain

Argentina
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
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2003
Whites are deemed to be “very good” whilst reds are considered “outstanding”, though there is some doubt as to whether they match the quality of 2002. It is reasonable to assume that some vineyards in 2003 outperformed the 2002 vintage. Cabernet Sauvignon won the day, though some high-altitude Malbecs are excellent.

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2004
The winter of 2003 was notably dry and warm, with the Zonda (a warm wind coming from the mountains to the north) causing humidity to drop drastically. Irrigation was required, thanks mainly to a lack of snow in the Andes. The summer was dry and hot, with temperatures refusing to drop during nights. Some precipitation occurred in January, spurring vines on. White wines are full of flavour with a delicious crispness; reds are superb, with full tannins, excellent ageing potential and varietal characteristics.

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2005
The ripening season was markedly cooler than usual, with a late harvest producing composed, effusive wines brimming with fruit flavours. January and February were chilly, whilst March was somewhat warmer, bringing on complete ripeness of the grapes. Some producers in San Juan rated 2005 as one of the best-ever vintages, with Syrah vines in particular doing very well indeed.

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2006
A brilliant vintage for Argentina, with red wines boasting vivid colour, supple tannins and explosive flavours. The whites are similarly excellent, particularly those from higher-altitude vineyards. Mendoza experienced a cool, snowy winter which was followed by warm temperatures in spring and summer. High levels of humidity ensured the grapes did not suffer from heat stress. Diurnal temperature fluctuation promoted slow maturation of grapes, resulting in some well-balanced wines. Hailstorms posed problems in Mendoza, but on the whole yields were up by some 20 percent – prompting some growers to thin vines to reduce yields by as much as 50 percent.

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2007
A warmer-than-usual vintage, though one devoid of sunburned bunches thanks to high relative humidity. A sudden cold snap on 16 February hastened the ripening process in many vineyards, creating a form of “hormonal shock”; depending on the region, picking took place two to four weeks earlier than would be expected usually.

2007 was wetter than usual, and hailstorms were fairly common. Areas in Mendoza lost between 50 and 100 percent of their grapes thanks to especially violent hailstorms, though quality levels were good to very good for the most part.

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2008
A cold vintage with changeable weather patterns, including strong winds, unseasonable rain, biting frost and vicious hailstorms. Winter temperatures were especially low, and spring arrived late across Chile. By mid-February some producers were concerned that the vintage would become a flop, and yet it righted itself in the nick of time thanks in part to drier, sunnier conditions in late summer and autumn. Wines will be a mixed bag in terms of quality, depending largely on local conditions and the way in which growers tackled the adverse conditions early on in the season. Looking on the bright side, the coolers day/night temperatures have given rise to red wines that are vivid in colour, with good acidity and concentration. The crop is down by a substantial 20-35 percent, with most cultivars being affected, thanks mainly to harsh spring frosts.

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Australia
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
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2003
2004 continues to be lauded, whilst 2003’s reputation seems beyond repair. Most reds are already drying out, with fading fruit and unpleasant tannins. 2003 was a year of reduced yields and small bunches of small berries. Rain close to harvest resulted in berry split, further reducing yields in regions spanning from Tasmania to central Victoria. Smoke taint from January bushfires in northeast Victoria made the situation even direr.

The “big red” regions of Barossa, McLaren Vale and Heathcote trotted out wines that were embarrassingly feeble. Grapes here failed to achieve flavour ripeness despite high alcohol due to a hot summer abruptly turning into a cool late summer and autumn. Shiraz fared best and Southern Victoria had a good vintage for the most part. The Tasmanian vintage was sodden, with the Margaret River having a middling year by and large.

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2004
A vintage that went above and beyond initial expectations, with bottles of wine appearing on the market revealing 2004 as a very good red year (particularly in South Australia). Early hopes were modest thanks to high yields – the product of heavy winter rains. Fortunately the crop wasn’t super-massive due to scorching mid-February heat spikes. Picking was sporadic due to alternating periods of hot and cold.

Southern Victoria enjoyed high yields whilst avoiding temperature extremes. Yarra Valley quality is respectable, despite a wet tail-end to the vintage: whites are extremely god, but lower yields have made it a good red year too. Coonawarra had a bumper crop and, whilst quality is for the most part high, over-cropped vineyards had ripening issues. Clare had a decent vintage, despite the February heat, and the Rieslings are good, if a little aggressive for some tastes. Barossa and McLaren Vale churned out some beautiful Shiraz. The Hunter Valley made some superb Semillon and Chardonnays, but reds are somewhat dilute.

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2005
A superb vintage – the best since 2002 and possibly 1998. All the classics performed well: Rieslings in the Eden and Clare Valleys; Semillons in the Hunter Valley; Shiraz in the Barossa; Cabernet in Coonawarra and Pinot noir in Tasmania and the Yarra Valley. The whites are strikingly good, though reds can also approach excellence. Western Australia is the only spanner in the works, with heavy rainfall meaning that growers there are less enthusiastic than their counterparts elsewhere.

Production remained high, though high-yields in high quality vineyards didn’t pose as much as a problem as in 2004. Winter and spring rains gave vines a kick-start, with vineyard management being necessary to curb their tenacity. The summer was cooler than usual, allowing grapes in hot-regions to develop steadily while cooler autumns benefited from an extended autumn that let grapes reach full ripeness.

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2006
In the east, hurried ripening was brought on by drought conditions and hotter summer-to-autumn temperatures – this was good for reds, but not for whites. In the west, the cool, overcast conditions held up the harvest; reds are chancy but whites are exceptional (the best ever from the Margaret River). The top wineries made some 2006 red, but quantities are very low.

One exception to the eastern states’ disastrous white-wine trend was the Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings, which are magnificent, though unlikely to live as long as the glorious 2005s and 2002s. Southern Victorian Pinot noirs are simply superb. On average, a very good to excellent season!

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2007
A fairly lacklustre season for most Australian growers; while plenty of good wine was produced, no region enjoyed a notable harvest. Drought was widespread, frosts were crippling and bushfires caused much smoke-taint. Yields were slashed by 29 percent. This was nearly catastrophic for some small growers, causing a cash-flow crisis, but it also helped bring oversupply into balance.

Quality is, in a word, variable. Hotter regions such as the Barossa Valley found the season too hot and dry, with reds being chewy and tannic without much fruit. Cooler regions such as Tasmania produced some good to very good wines, but precious little of it. Hunter Valley, Margaret River and Mornington Peninsula have had the best vintages. On the whole whites are good this year, making for attractive drinking when young. Few will age well, even those from Tasmania.

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2008
An early, sweltering vintage in many parts of Australia, with South Australia experiencing a 16-day heat wave that saw temperatures hovering from the high 30s to 40 Celsius. Night temperatures also remained high, resulting in desiccation in some instances. Tasmania and Southern Victoria had a much better time of it, the vintage being early but with none of the excessive heat.

Western Australia also had to contend with searing temperatures. New South Wales was the exception here, with Mudgee and Hunter Valley having the most appalling vintage in living memory. Torrential downpours following a cool summer mean some whites will be good but reds will be awful. Canberra, Orange and Hilltops had a brilliant harvest: the summer was cool, but it was drier.

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Austria
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005
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2002
A dramatic year, considering that many vineyards in Lower Austria collapsed in autumn due to flooding. Red wines are balanced with ripe tannins, and botrytis flourished in the damp conditions – ideal for noble sweet wines.

Growers in Styria made effusive Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, and in Lower Austria rigorous grape selection among responsible producers resulted in some great wines. Rieslings were beautifully balanced, particularly in the Wachau and the Kamptal, showing much depth, potential and sophistication.

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2003
Marked by two intense heat waves, in May and late summer, this was a glorious year. Harvesting began in August, the earliest recorded date, and under optimum conditions. Those younger vines that had not yet developed complex root systems suffered from the drought, however. In general, growers who contended with the stifling heat (by leaving leaf canopies etc.) could count on a harvest to die for.

Reds really came to the fore this year, with growers sensibly opting for denser, structured wines as opposed to a wave of characterless blockbusters. If growers protected their grapes from sun stress then white wines of breathtaking freshness and beautiful acidity were produced.

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2004
Another year that largely depended on the efforts of individual growers, though on the whole this is the poorest vintage in a decade. There are some successful offerings, but they will not stand up to the test of time and should be drunk fairly soon.

The weather was poor, though August and early September were well-behaved, thereby sparing many grapes that had been written off entirely. Producers relying on low yields from the off were able to achieve full ripeness, with wines being strongly varietal and clean. Gruner Veltliner and Riesling were elegant, though quantities produced were quite modest. Among black cultivars, early-ripeners had the edge (e.g. Zweigelt) though these will not age well. Hotter grapes such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon struggled to achieve full ripeness.

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2005
Quality varies from mediocre to outstanding, especially for dry whites. A torrential autumn meant that discerning growers had to accept only thirty percent of normal yields in order to maintain quality – the result being some tantalising wines.

Composed acidity, ripe fruits and ripeness are to be expected from premier whites from lower Austria. Reds from early-ripening cultivars have had a good time of it, too. Vineyards in Styria didn’t benefit from low-pressure systems, but with selection producers were able to achieve full ripeness and good fruit. Terroir is triumphant over sheer fruit extract with this vintage. Botrytis took hold easily, which was fantastic news for sweet wines; admittedly, non-sweet growers in the Burgenland did not appreciate the presence of the ‘noble rot’ quite so much.

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California
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
This vintage had no prolonged summer heat; instead it was marked by sporadic heat spells late in the season – the result being excessively high sugars in many cultivars. The heat spells took place after a fairly cool summer, so sugars scaled quickly. Some reds are shabby; whites fared better, considering the cool summer bestowed the grapes with good acidity.

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2003
Rains set in early this year which, combined with late heat spikes, made for lower overall yields. Overall the vintage was of good concentration with intensity of flavour. Sadly, heat in March meant unfertilised berries fell from the new clusters, reducing crop size. A cold May didn’t help matters, putting the crop a month behind schedule. A hot September went some way to rectifying the situation, the result being reds having high levels of sugar and acid.

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2004
The spring was warm and vines got off to a fast start; however, two months of cool weather followed before two weeks of summer heat. The result was one of the earliest harvests in years, running three to four weeks ahead of normal. The first grapes, for sparkling wine, were picked on 23 July. Quality was considered to be superb.

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2005
A damp, cool spring persisted until mid-June – the result being that most northern coastal regions of California were afflicted with mildew. A cool late spring and summer worsened the situation and led to a topsy-turvy harvest with some red grapes being picked before whites. Growers were rewarded with grapes that had excellent acidity, and quality is considered to be exceptional.

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2006
Winter rains and a chilly, damp spring gave growers a headache with the potential for early onset of botrytis. The summer was cooler than usual, but two weeks in late July and early August were so scorching that some vines withered altogether. Cooler weather followed, pushing the harvest back by a full month. The harvest itself was haphazard, with some whites being picked later than some reds. Pinot noir, having suffered from a tiny crop in 2005, rebounded back to normal yields. Quality is overall superb, especially in terms of acidity.

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2007
Rain was not forthcoming during the 2006/2007 winter, causing early bud-break and early ripening. A series of small heat spikes meant that the harvest began mid-August, earlier than normal, though with sufficient time on the vine due to the early fruit set. In north coast areas fruit ripened at about the same time. September brought with it cool weather that held things up, meaning that some Pinot noir stayed on the vine for a few extra days. Thankfully, humidity was low and so disease was scarce. Yields were on the whole down in the coastal areas, although fruit was left on the vine in some cases as demand didn’t meet fruit expectation.

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Central and Southern Italy
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
The shortest vintage in five decades, 2002 was initially lambasted but is not as bad as many critics claimed it would be. In fact, white wines are fresh and fragrant with lots of nerve. Sangiovese are for the most part poor, but there is so much Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon kicking around these days that they can compensate somewhat. Cooler temperatures, lashings of rain and volatile weather patterns proved difficult obstacles on the east coast, but modern techniques spared many grapes that would have been written off ten years prior.

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2003
Soaring temperatures and the ever-present risk of drought were the defining features of this bone-dry vintage. Puglia’s principal reds, Primitivo and Negroamaro, positively thrived in these conditions; however, vines in central Italy certainly did not. Sugar ripening was very advanced in many places, but this was not matched by ripeness – making for unbalanced wines. Classic wines will require careful selection.

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2004
The stage was set for a magnificent vintage this year, with even growth and splendid balance of components within the grapes; what central and southern Italy required was a near-perfect September to seal the deal – sunny days, a smattering of rain and good diurnal temperature variation. Thankfully, this is what some areas west of the Appenines received, as well as areas in the south.

Tuscany had much success, with Chianti Classico, Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino being lauded with five-star ratings. In Tuscany, Romagna, Lzio, Campania, the Marche and Sardinia, the consensus was that wines were “exceptional”. The east coast and towards the south – in Molise, Abruzzo and Puglia – did not share this success thanks to vintage-time rain.

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2005
A disappointing September paved the way for a horrendous October. The first ten days were sodden and anything picked beyond this point of time was compromised. Those wines based on grapes picked early are more than permissible, but they will not last very long. In Marche and Abruzzo only about thirty percent of wines are good – all of which are, predictably, based on grapes picked earlier rather than later. Puglia and Campania fared better, producing some alluring reds and whites. Sardinia and Sicily had better innings, with many wines approaching excellence.

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2006
2006 witnessed sizeable yields and very good to excellent quality across central and southern Italy. Chianti, Brunello and Vino Nobile proved to be wines of composure and distinction with the white wines also showing great balance and finesse. All reds based on Sangiovese and Montepulciano will have benefited greatly from this year.

Campania enjoyed both increased volume and elevated levels of quality across the board. Puglia suffered from a rainy September, though it was volume that suffered most as opposed to quality. Sardinia and Sicily were stuck by intense heat and drought, thereby experiencing a short harvest – fortunately the wines have splendid bouquet and structure.

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2007
The most striking aspect to the 2007 vintage was the extremely low yields experienced nationwide. None suffered more than the south, where yields were down by up to 50% in places. It was also one of the earliest harvests ever, with picking taking place in several places in the first third of August. Wines were heterogeneous, with arresting wines coming from the precocious varieties. The 2006/2007 winter was very warm and dry. July and August were scorching, though rainfall kept drought at bay. September was fine, with day-night temperature variations helping to bolster complexity.

Tuscany fared much better in terms of output, being down only 10 percent on 2006. Quality ranges from good to very good, with some select producers offering wines of excellence. Brunello producers have much to look forward to, as it seems outstanding wines are on their way for the third year in four – albeit with more body and less elegance. From Chianti Classico and Montepulciano the message is similar. Prices are predicted to be high, with this vintage following several years of low yields.

Along the east coast volumes were down 15-25 percent, due in part to severe drought. Wines produced here should be concentrated with high sugar content and adequate acidity. For white wines, only those producers who were extremely attentive to their vineyards will have any success.

Abruzzo suffered in terms of volume, with yields down by a fifth. This is made up for in part by the quality of certain Montepulciano-based wines, which are set to be nothing short of exceptional with vivid colours and great complexity. Apulia is also 20 percent down, with large areas of vineyard being left unpicked thanks to the ominous presence of downy mildew. Conversely, those vines that were well-tended should give rise to some exemplary wines of rich, easy-drinking fruitiness. Primitivos and Negroamaros will be especially good from this vintage.

Sicily was the most badly affected, with yields down by 50 percent in many eastern regions. Volatile weather ranged from heavy rainfall to periods of high heat and humidity. Downy mildew wreaked havoc, leaving many vines unpicked due to the cost of treatment. In Sicily quality will be high where growers invested their energy into looking after their vineyards properly.

Finally, Sardinia broke the trend by equalling 2006 production levels – it was also spared the torrid temperatures. Wines of balance and good character should be expected.

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Chile
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
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2003
A fantastic vintage, with alluring whites with concentrated, ripe reds and vibrant whites. A warm year with a long, dry autumn; this is reflected in the maturity and intensity of the wine. A great Chilean vintage that gives consistent quality and good to excellent wines across the board.

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2004
This vintage gave, if variable, results. A hot summer gave way to a damp autumn, meaning that this was something of a frantic harvest – good vineyard management was essential. Alcohol levels are high, resulting in some imbalance despite deep concentration and ripeness. Drink these sooner rather than later.

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2005
This was a long, moderate season that led to a late harvest and wines showing remarkable complexity, natural balance and freshness. Reds are considered to offer good to outstanding quality; whites are good to very good.

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2006
Dry, long and cold are the three words that best sum up the 2006 vintage—a resounding success for aromatic wines, though reds are refreshing. Growers were forced to hedge their bets and judge harvest times well in order to achieve optimum quality. Larger berry sizes mean that reds are not as powerful as in 2005, though quality is still good.

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2007
2007 was a game of two halves: the first hot and wet, the second cool and dry. Whilst some balck varieties were harvested two to three weeks later than usual, Sauvignon blanc was hauled in up to two weeks early. On the whole wines have good natural acidity, fresh fruit and colour. Volumes are down by about 20 percent, though middle of the market reds and top whites should be truly outstanding.

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2008
Notable for the geographical split between the early-picked, warm interior regions and the later-picked coastal areas. This could mean effusive, dense whites and coastal reds with more basic reds from the interior. The season itself began very late in the year, thanks to the coldest winter in over fifty years together with a chilly spring. Bone-dry conditions followed, reducing output by 10-20 percent. Whites were harvested 2-3 weeks late along the coast, though things heated up in March and by early April producers in Maipo and Colchagua were anticipating harvest times to be either earlier or on par with 2007. The sweltering weather will of course mean that vineyard management will have had a big impact on the quality of wines produced.

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Germany
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
The growing season was steady, with a near-perfect balance between rainfall and sunshine. Sadly this progress was tarnished somewhat by heavy rains from September onwards, though low temperatures negated the risk of rot. Patient, dedicated growers produced some very impressive wines indeed.

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2003
An astoundingly hot and dry vintage, unrivalled in Germany since 1540! Early August signalled that this vintage was set to be very different, and by the end of September the first Trockenbeerauslese grapes were being harvested. Growers remarked on the hefty weight of the grapes. Harvest conditions were perfect, though the lack of precipitation meant that quantity was down by a full fifth. Wild speculation that this was the “vintage of the century” (a phrase far too prematurely) proved nonsense, with wines not quite achieving the balance between fruit, acidity and alcohol that is to be expected from a truly seminal vintage.

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2004
Wedged between two built-up vintages, 2004 is just beginning to receive the attention it deserves. Zippy, refreshing whites with superb balance of acidity, fruit and body are to be found. Reds are taut, with impressive tannic structure – the result of even ripening with sufficient rainfall, warm rather than hot temperatures and a gentle Indian summer all playing their part.

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2005
Warm weeks in spring made for an ideal flowering period. The summer was not without copious amounts of rain, and yet a sun-splashed autumn meant that grapes ripened early. All thirteen regions unilaterally reported impeccable ripeness with a superb ratio of sugars and acids. Incidents of rot did lower yields in some areas and strict selection of grapes was necessary. A very good year, despite it not living up to the early hype.

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2006
A highly temperamental year, prone to rapid shifts in weather and vine development. A lengthy winter paved the way for a wet, miserable spring that held up growth but topped up the water tables. May was clement, whilst June and July were hot with the odd shower here and there. At this stage vines were ahead of schedule by two weeks, but were hindered by a damp, cool August. An Indian summer heartened winegrowers but sadly their hopes were dashed when torrential rains struck in late September. Not all grapes were brought in before serious damage was done. Discerning producers enforced a ruthless selection process that resulted in very respectable results. Overall the quality of wine from this vintage is lacklustre, though bargains are to be had from those producers that applied stringent selection standards.

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2007
Flowering took place three weeks ahead of time, thanks to a mild winter and a surprisingly warm spring. Summer rains came at the right time to prevent drought, but thankfully were not prolonged and so did not cause rot or mildew. Intense sunlight in July meant that some grapes suffered from sun damage, though this did help some growers with their green harvest. August was milder, allowing grapes to mature slowly and evenly; grapes were also able to retain significant levels of acidity. Diseases, pests and hail storms were scarce throughout the year and so grapes were positively glowing upon harvest. Chilly nights and sunny days in autumn made growers of Riesling especially happy. Overall a very promising year.

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Great Britain
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
An Indian summer meant these wines are of exceptional quality, particularly those made from harder-to-ripen cultivars such as Chardonnay and Pinot noir. Sugar levels, which usually hover between seven and nine per cent, soared up to double these figures in many instances; as a result, chaptalisation was not required.

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2003
A superlative year for the UK wine industry. An easy-going spring was followed up by enviable summer weather, with temperatures peaking at 35 Celsius. The proverbial deal was sealed by fantastic weather in September and October. The weather was sunny, very warm and dry. Grapes were harvested and found to have unmatched sugar levels. Competent growers have made some awe-inspiring wines, with red and effervescent wine made from traditional varieties really taking centre stage. The best year for black varieties in living memory.

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2004
Despite large yields, 2004 wines seem to possess that typical trait of UK-grown wines: a good balance between fruit and acidity. The best wines from Bacchus grapes have great flavour and length, together with freshness and fragrance.

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2005
Yet another peculiar year for the UK. A damp summer with sporadic sunshine and showers paved the way for an excellent September and October, with sugar levels reaching exciting highs. Apart from some frost in May, the vintage boasted a healthy crop. Quality is superb with perfect sugar/acid balance.

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2006
2004 and 2005 cast a long shadow over this vintage; nevertheless, there were some very good wines produced this year in England. Blush wines are especially alluring, and wines made from Bacchus are on good form. Reds are, sadly, less successful. Sparkling wines show promise, and on paper their sugar/acid balance is good, but it is too early to make any definitive judgement. Good growers and winemakers will have made the difference this year, whilst those who took a lenient approach will fall by the wayside.

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2007
A disappointing year. A very hot April raised hopes, but from mid-May to September rain came in regular bouts. September and October were dry, but this was not sufficient to rectify the situation. The crop was down fifty per cent and in some instances downy mildew caused near total crop loss.

For all this, acidity is very high and some whites may show much ageing potential in coming years. Reds, in all but the most fortunate/well-attended vineyards, will be dilute.

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Greece
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
An eminently forgettable vintage, though there are a few exceptions. Whites were better than reds, though short-lived. Red-wine regions were subjected to persistent, heavy rainfall. Rot was widespread.

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2003
A very respectable vintage with success in most regions, particularly those which experienced lower output. Whites are generous, almost lavish, but do not have the structure to age well with the exception of Santorini. Nemea seemed set to have a fabulous vintage, but the wine produced did not match initial expectations.

Although the fruit is not as forward as in the previous two years, it is holding well. As time goes on the age-worthiness of some wines will become clear. High yields of Xinomavro meant quality was compromised. Amyndeo gave notice of the sheer potential of Xinomavro in this re-energised region. The island Muscats of Limnos and Samos are richly flavoured, though not for keeping in the long term.

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2004
The white harvest took place a week behind schedule; blacks were picked two to three weeks later. White grapes ripened fully. International varieties achieved a uniform quality, whilst delicate native cultivars achieved much natural acidity and distinction. An outstanding vintage for all whites, including dessert wines.

Reds had a worse time of it, but were spared by a warm and sunny October. The wines possess vivid colour, composed tannins and elegant fragrance.

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2005
After two high yielding vintages nature corrected itself with a 15 percent drop on the average yield. Summer was without extreme weather and diurnal temperature variation helped ensure that grapes developed healthily. Optimum conditions during harvesting helped things further, though Nemea had to contend with heavy rainfall. The northern vineyards of Amyndeo, Epanomi, Kavala, Dramama and Naoussa performed well, producing some very good reds and whites. The dessert Muscats of Rio Patra are both fragrant and defined – the best in recent years. Santorini came out with some super-concentrated yet bone-dry whites. Cretan dry whites are staggering for their levels of freshness and ripeness. Samos Muscats are fragrant with real backbone and much ageability.

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2006
A year of rapid shifting extremes, with a warm, sunny June leading into one of the coolest Julys on record. August was dry and hot, but black grapes were two weeks behind schedule and suffered some vine stress thanks to drought. Timely winter rains paved the way for Santorini’s fourth-in-a-row vintage of exceptional quality. September was cool with sporadic rainfall. Hailstorms caused some damage in Aighialia in late September. Island growers harvested their white grapes a week later than would be normally expected, and black grapes were gathered a full three weeks later.

Whilst wines are not as uniform as in 2005, wines of high quality were produced by the top names, even in a year of such climactic contrasts.

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2007
No vintage has quite approached this one in living memory. Winter rainfall was sparse, whilst June and July experienced three successive heat waves, reducing berry size by a considerable amount—the crop was 20-45 percent down. Fires ravaged the northern Peloponnese, with two out of six of the wine producing sub-regions of Aighialia being destroyed outright.

Both reds and whites are intense and rich, though balance can be an issue thanks to water-stressed vines. Whites, with the exception of volcanic Santorini, possess raw power but are somewhat lacking in floral and mineral qualities. Naturally, there are exceptions due to Greece’s extremely varied terroir – think Mantinia and Crete’s Vilana wines (they are both glorious).

Cretan grapes suffered from heat stress, with black grape varieties having the earliest harvest on record. For the most part, aromatic complexity has been replaced with vinous intensity on the island.

It is important to note that the Xinomavro cultivar had a tremendous year - possibly the best to date for both blends and varietals.

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Israel
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
Intense heat make this a tricky year both in terms of quality and simple output. Some wines are good to very good (both red and white), but nearly all should be drunk whilst relatively young.

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2003
A superb vintage for both red and white wine – a blend of the intense and concentrated with the composed and age-worthy. The best of the whites are drinking well now, but will cellar comfortably for another couple of years.

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2004
A brief and frantic harvest, but a very good crop. Whites came out on top, though reds boast good concentration and effusiveness.

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2005
An extended harvest of high quality mean this is one of the most promising years of the past decade. Reds and whites alike benefited from the perfect weather conditions, with wines possessing balance, definition and much ageing potential.

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2006
Low yields and staid quality combine to render this year somewhat lacking. Reds are better than whites, but this is definitely a year in which many of the top-of-the-range series and single-vineyard wines will not be released at all.

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2007
A dry winter gave way to a cold spring and a warm, bone-dry summer. The superb weather persisted until the end of October. Overall this is a vintage of excellent quality, though reds have the edge on whites this time around.

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New Zealand
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
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2003
Frost had an impact on all regions this year, except Nelson and Central Otago. The damaged ranged from the manageable (in Auckland) to the severe (in Hawke’s Bay). The North was wet this year, while the South Island experienced a fairly dry year, with drought in some areas. Grape growers in frost-affected areas tried in vain to recover production by harvesting later-ripening grapes from “second set”, but this resulted in fairly vapid wines.

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2004
For the most part a cool vintage with heavy rainfall in February. Frost stuck Central Otago with a vengeance at the beginning and end of the season. Marlborough Sauvignon blanc is a mixed bag, with a number of dilute or overly acidic wines. Dry, warm weather at the end of the vintage rectified the situation to a degree. Hawke’s Bay produced some fantastic reds, although Cabernet Sauvignon struggled to ripen thanks to the chilly weather.

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2005
Damp conditions during flowering meant yields were down on 2004, yet this was made up for when a long, dry Indian summer brought about Northland/Auckland its greatest vintage in terms of quality. Hawke’s Bay had less luck thanks to torrential rainfall; reds were of good quality but whites suffered from the poor weather. Canterbury growers were sometimes affected by frost at the beginning of October and poor flowering in general. Martinborough experienced heavy precipitation but the wines, especially Sauvignon blancs, are very good indeed. Quality varies from region to region in this vintage, ranging from the excellent to the lacklustre.

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2006
This vintage is the biggest ever in New Zealand thanks to an eighteen percent increase in vineyard area. The weather after flowering was near-perfect until heavy rainfall in late March. Thankfully, by this point most grape varieties had been harvested. Those who cultivated black grapes were forced to choose between gathering their grapes under pressure or waiting in the hope of fine weather returning; those who waited fared better.

South Island regions had very early harvests, with Marlborough’s Sauvignon blanc crop enjoying enviable ripening conditions. An extended, dry autumn rewarded patient growers. On the whole this vintage is excellent for both reds and whites.

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2007
A large vintage, weighing in at a staggering 205,000 tonnes. The grape varieties that experienced the biggest gains on the previous year were, in order, Pinot gris and Chardonnay, while the largest plummets in production were experienced by Pinot noir, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauvignon blanc made a small gain on the previous year. Marlborough produced the region’s greatest examples of Sauvignon blanc since 1991.

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2008
Hot, dry conditions during late summer and early autumn made for happy winemakers. Prior to picking, many boldly declared it would be an outstanding vintage. Northerly growers were disappointed when rain in late February and early March caused botrytis outbreaks here and there.

The harvest was a record-breaker at a whopping 245,000 tonnes. This goliath of a harvest put stress on processing capacity as well as dramatically reducing the cost of Sauvignon blanc grapes. There are claims that Sauvignon blanc is very good despite a hot, botrytis-afflicted vintage. Pinot noir is very promising.

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Northern Italy
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2003
Initially lambasted by the pundits, this vintage has merits. Piedmont did, as reported, suffer from severe hail damage that wiped out many Barolos/Barbarescos altogether. Many grapes were too damaged or else did not reach required levels of ripeness. For all this, many lesser denominations benefited from the influx of grapes grown on the great vineyards. Whites fared much better, with growers in Soave declaring 2002 to be their best year in a decade; certainly these wines are zippy and taut.

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2004
Lauded as “vintage of the century”, it has largely lived up to this reputation thus far – not that that’s saying much at this point. After two problematic years, 2004 – a year of measured heat and rainfall, with fine weather at harvest time – let growers breathe a sigh of relief. Both whites and reds proved to be of outstanding quality across the board. White wines from Fruili, Trentino, Alto Adige, Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont show much finesse and liveliness. Reds have superb structure, good varietal characteristics, balance and ageing potential. Piedmontese reds displayed elevated sugar levels, whilst acidity was ideal across the board. The wines combine traditional structure with a modern roundness of fruit and balance.

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2005
Initially dismissed by many, this is not a poor year; a handful of good wines have come to attention, though nothing truly earth-shattering has emerged. Output plummeted this year, down between ten and a shocking twenty-five percent in some areas. Sadly, growers were not compensated for their loss in terms of quality – the wines were slightly less defined and more dilute than 2004, but were by no means bad.

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2006
This vintage brought both quality and quantity. In Piedmont, June was very humid but July brought milder temperatures and some precipitation. August was cool and some expressed doubts that late-ripening grapes would make it at all. Fortunately, September was fine until mid-month, which brought three days of heavy rainfall. By this stage grapes had developed thick skins and so there was no rot to speak of, nor did rain recur until after the harvest. 2006 was a year of complexity and distinction, giving wines good ageing potential.

Lombardy’s performance was comparable to Piedmont, with white wines in particular being successful. Alto Adige and Trentino were also successful and quality was, aside from some incidents of rot, good to excellent. Emilia-Romagna produced wines of good to very good quality.

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2007
The overall yield in Italy, nationally, was the lowest since 1948 with just 40.5 million hl nationwide. The north did not suffer quite as much as the south, but the impact was still very tangible.

The winter was very mild and, even more unusually, dry. April was hot and summery and, though there was some rain in May and June, this trend continued when July and August brought stifling heat.

Despite these extreme conditions, the 2007 vintage was a good one for most of the north. Wines, especially Nebbiolos, are effusive and concentrated. Dolcetto and Barbera wines are equally vibrant, though quite heavy in terms of alcohol content. Whites did not fare well in the remorseless heat, but are not poor quality.

2007 was particularly kind to Alto Adige and Trentino; weather conditions in August and September provided warm days and cool nights suitable for balance in white wines. Fruili, also focused on white-wine production, produced wines of great quality. Interestingly, it was able to defy the national trend of rock-bottom yields, increasing production over 2006 by ten percent. Veneto fared equally well; however, Soave and Valdobbiadene were forced to contend with vicious hailstorms that badly damaged vines.

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Portugal
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
By September grapes were in pretty good condition, but sadly it rained for five days in a row during the middle of the month. The weather remained dreary until well into October, spelling disaster for Vinho Verde and Bairrada, where many growers had to witness the grapes rotting on the vine. Some excellent wines were produced by Douro in the south by those who harvested early, and some good wine came from the south. On the whole this is a vintage many growers would rather forget.

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2003
An unremarkable year until, from late July, the country was subjected to nearly three weeks of scaling temperatures. The heat was such that photosynthesis was compromised and the maturation process came to an effective standstill. By early September the harvest was underway, but sugar levels remained very low. Those who got their timing wrong made unbalanced wines with high pH and startlingly low alcohol. The Alentejo, Dao and parts of the Douro were the most badly affected by the heat damage, whereas Bairrada enjoyed its best and most hassle-free vintage in over ten years. The best wines are those made with late ripening cultivars. With the notable exception of reds from Bairrada and parts of the Douro, wines from 2003 are forward and early maturing.

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2004
August and early September were very damp and in turn suffered from outbreaks of rot. Thankfully the weather cleared up before the harvest and some outstanding wines have been made. In the Douro and Dao, Touriga Nacional has performed particularly well.

Overall 2004 is a year of vibrant, well-balanced reds with alcohol, brooding intensity and acidity. They should age for a good few years.

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2005
The winter of 2004/2005 was the driest on record. Also notable were the warm summer months, with vines losing their leaves and berries beginning to dry out by early August. Fortunately rains in late August and early September staved off disaster and helped the grapes swell.

Sadly, for Alentejo this came too late for the harvest was already in full swing. Clear weather persisted until October and, with production down by thirty percent or so, wines were often aggressively alcoholic. More northerly regions and coastal regions produced very good to excellent wines when under the aegis of quality-orientated growers—particularly in Bairrada, the Douro and Dao.

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2006
Winter rains helped top up the water tables in time for a hot, dry summer. In Bairrada, the Duoro Superior and Alentejo the heat was too much for the vines and ripening was held up by vines shutting down. Bairrad reds were also afflicted with heavy rainfall and rot. Douro grapes fared a little better, with some raisining, but the wines lack overall structure despite aromatic qualities. Aragonez in the Alentejo never ripened sufficiently after the heat-stress induced shutdowns, but some good wines were made from early-ripening cultivars. Good wines were made in Dao from the early-ripening Alfrocheiro and Jaen, but the later-ripening Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cao never quite made the grade. In the Dao, Minho, Terras de Sado, and Ribatejo, early-picked grapes made good, though not great wines. Whites from Dao, the Minho, Ribatejo, Terras de Sado and Bairrada were good when grapes were picked before the rains set in. Moscatels in the Setubal peninsula are particularly good.

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2007
After four bone-dry years the water tables were restored in time for this vintage as October, November and February were especially damp. The rest of the year was fairly damp too, and these conditions meant that fungal diseases became an ever-present threat. Those growers with the forethought to treat their vines handled the situation with relative ease, but part-time growers or those who had grown lax after two dry years were perilously caught off guard.

Besides damp weather, 2007 was also fairly cool. Disease and poor-fruit set in June combined to reduce yields by twenty per cent. For all this, the long, cool summer paved the way for a bright and cheery harvest. Whites fared very well in the absence of blazing temperatures, with high acidity and complex aromas. Those reds that do not need to attain full maturity also did well.

In Vinho Verde quantities were down by a sharp thirty percent on average, though some individual growers suffered losses as high as 70 percent. Wines produced were effusive and composed, with grapes being much riper than usual. Duoro was afflicted by mildew in June and July, but those wise enough to treat their vines breezed through a long, cool summer that gave rise to fantastic whites and restrained, aromatic reds.

The Beiras was hardest hit by the wet summer, with Dao quantities down forty per cent on average. The later-ripening Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional were helped along by a warm, dry autumn and gave rise to alluring, aromatic wines of good colour. Touriga Nacional also turned heads in Bairrada, also producing fragrant wines there. Bairrada whites should be splendid. In Estremadura, quantities are down by 20 per cent, but wines produced are aromatic and balanced. The Ribatejo did not suffer from big drops on quantity and has made some similarly aromatic wines. The story is much the same in the Terras do Sado: lively, aromatic whites and reds, but quantities down by 15 per cent. In Alentejo the late-ripening Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga National shone, with the cool summer bestowing the reds with expressive balance and expressiveness.

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South Africa
2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
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2003
Head and shoulders above many vintages from the past twenty-five years. Wines are generous and structured.

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2004
An uneven berry set was the only drawback to a long and pre-dominantly healthy harvest that favoured Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Sauvignon blanc.

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2005
Spring rains encouraged mildew and excessive vigour in many vineyards, while a heat wave resulted in soaring sugar levels in others. Cherry-picking is required with this vintage, as generalisations count for nothing. Reds are, for the most part, concentrated, if alcoholic; whites are average.

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2006
Strong winds, power cuts, fires and excessive heats all combined together to make this year look almost biblical in its excess. Despite the raging elements this year is one of the best out of the noughties. White wines, especially Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon, are worth shouting about. Shiraz didn’t hold up well against the fierce winds, though other reds are ripe, round and fleshy.

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2007
A cold winter that raised the water tables led into a spring that kick-started the ripening process. Cooler weather set in, reducing stress on the later-ripening varieties. Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc came out best among the whites this year; small, berry-sized black grapes mean red wines are concentrated and delicious.

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2008
Not an easy year to sum up, with success varying from locality to locality. Winter was suitably cold, allowing for dormancy whilst also topping up the water tables. A cool summer extended the ripening period, preserved acid and let sugars build up slowly. Late summer rains disrupted this pretty picture, resulting in powdery mildew, rot and excessive vigour among vines; green harvesting was a necessity.

Fruit selection and canopy management proved to be crucial, though thankfully a strong south-easterly wind kept vines healthy for the most part. Some fruit was of extraordinary quality, with good acidity, moderate sugar levels and sophisticated, complex flavours.

Though rot did make an appearance, it wasn’t always a bad thing: botrytis on the Chenin Blanc crop only contributed to the richness. Constantia saw a big decline, but the hot, irrigated Northern Cape’s harvest is up.

Due to the uneven standard of quality, wine enthusiasts should be careful when picking out bottles for the cellar.

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Spain
2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007
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2002
Something of a dichotomy, with Spain split across the southwest-northeast divide—the former having a better time of it. Rioja gran reserve is a little uninspired, though reservas from Ribera del Duero and the emerging regions of Castilla y Leon are drinking well (though will need decanting, as with any other wines older than this).

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2003
Soaring temperatures throughout summer meant the harvest took place ten days early. Rioja suffered severely with those vines having ample irrigation faring best. Penedes produced some excellent reds (excluding Syrah, which couldn’t cope with the heat). Quantity was down almost everywhere, with wines drinking well now.

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2004
The northwest and central south fared well, with north-central and northeast suffering from a fair amount of dull and cloudy weather. The latter part of the ripening season was warm and summy for the most part and Rioja in particular came through with its second excelente year of the century.

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2005
2005 is now starting to drink well, though wines from premier estates will live for another ten years or more; everyday offerings will drink well from now onwards and possess a vibrant, fresh fruitiness. Gran reservas are simply spectacular.

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2006
These wines generally make for good to very good early-drinking wines. Rioja and Ribera del Duero produced smaller amounts of “ageing” wines this year, with the emphasis being on lighter wines this year.

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2007
Cool and wet, with sugar levels reduced in most areas. This was not necessarily a bad thing, as many producers seized the opportunity to produce lower-strength wines with fresh, zippy acidity. Turning the tables, they cunningly predicted “very good” wines as a result of this change in direction. The vintage began as early as 20 August in certain areas and extended to 5 November in others.

Many see slow ripening as a positive aspect to this vintage, though yields are down marginally on 2006. Poor weather affected the Levant during the ripening season, resulting in average yields. Copious amounts of rain also fell during the harvest, which hindered progress considerably. The Upper Ebro had cool temperatures and high humidity, meaning that before long fungal diseases began to rear their ugly heads—especially in low-lying vineyards. The Duero Valley was subjected to biting frost in late September, with producers changing their tune and instead predicting an “average” vintage at this point. La Mancha emerged victorious, escaping hail, storms and frost alike to give us wines that are fresh and acidic. In general this is not a stellar vintage, but it is certainly “useful” – easy-drinking and fairly priced, with bargains to be had for the keen buyer.

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