A majority of European winemakers struggled during their attempts to make whites, and most had to resort to acidification and other winemaking "tricks" that give the palate a sense of unnatural manipulation.
While it's true that it was difficult to make great whites during 2003, before you write off the vintage completely consider Edmond Vatan.
The best winemakers in the world are able to transcend difficult vintages and make amazing wine, balancing the personality of the vintage with their own. It's not easy though - making incredible wine every year requires incredible focus and attention to detail, the right terroir, and a little bit of luck.
Edmond is one of these top winemakers, in a class with some of the absolute greatest in the world. And in 2003 he stuck to his guns and persevered, making wine the only way he knows how.
Grown on the steepest, most perfectly exposed slopes in Chavignol (arguably the best in Sancerre - see sidebar), the grapes for all of Vatan's "Clos de Neore" come from old, low-yielding vines, that he tends using minimalist, natural methods.
He timed his harvest in 2003 impeccably, and was extremely selective about the fruit he used. As always, the wine was fermented in large, old barrels (no new oak!).
The personality of 2003 does show through: Vatan's wines in this vintage are big and opulent, however, they still have the classic penetrating minerality and lanolin-like texture that he is known for.
What Vatan sacrifices in volume (only 500 cases are made), he makes up for in quality, with the best 2003 white we've tasted so far.
Due to their incredible concentration, Vatan wines also have the very rare knack for long aging.
While most Sancerre does not age that well, specific wines from Chavignol develop for years. Vatan's might be the longest lived of them all.
We've heard of great examples from '29, '34, '47 and '59 ... so drink one or two now and squirrel away the rest for a nice summer day way down the line.
Where In The World?
There's Sancerre - but then there's Chavignol.
Sancerre is the world-famous appellation in the Loire Valley of France that is home to racy, minerally Sauvignon Blancs. Chavignol, a small village within Sancerre, produces the finest wine of the whole appellation with the greatest expression of terroir.
Chavignol soil is composed of Kimmeridgian Marl - the same as in Chablis Grand Cru Vineyards and certain parts of Champagne. This soil is what drives the mineral quality of the wine; but, more importantly, it drives the wine's ability to age.