The 2003 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape has gone from strength to strength and now looks to be the finest vintage since the monumental 1995. Deep ruby to the rim with that classic Rayas nose of flowers, kirsch liqueur, black raspberries, crushed rocks, and minerals, the wine is dense and concentrated, with a broad, savory mouthfeel, sweet yet silky tannin, fabulous persistence, and a blockbuster finish that just goes on and on. This is a reassuringly profound Rayas that seems to suggest that Emmanuel Reynaud has finally figured out this cold-climate terroir in a warm climate appellation. This wine should be given 3-4 years of bottle age, and drunk over the following 20+ years.
Tasting through the three foudres that will be blended together for the 2003 Rayas Chateauneuf du Pape suggested that this is the finest Rayas Emmanuel Reynaud has yet fashioned. The harvest, which began on September 5th, may have been the earliest ever at this estate. It continued through the end of the month as Reynaud felt there was no hurry, and each parcel was dramatically different in maturity because of the extraordinary drought and heat. This deep ruby-colored Rayas may have the finest color saturation since the 1995. A pure, vivid, persistent bouquet of black raspberries and kirsch liqueur is followed by a full-bodied Chateauneuf with loads of glycerin, 15% alcohol (the same as the watery 2002), high tannin, loads of phenolic ripeness, and plenty of dry extract as well as intensity. This beauty is a reassuringly top-flight effort from this hallowed estate. My instincts suggest it will be a relatively structured Rayas with more power, tannin, and intensity than the 2001, 2000, 1999, or 1998. I do not believe it will attain the heights of the profound 1995, but it is not far off that vintage’s style. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2020+.
I suppose you could say that after the death of Jacques Reynaud in 1997, every Rayas lover (and I’ve got to be close to the top of that list) has been waiting to see, with mixed emotions as well as some concern, what will happen at this estate now that Reynaud’s nephew, Emmanuel, has taken over the winemaking. Reynaud’s sister is still on the premises, and Emmanuel worked with Jacques for a number of years. The vintages that he has had complete control of to date include 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. The 2000 should have been better, the 1998 is not as profound a wine as this vintage offered for Chateauneuf du Pape, but the 2001 has turned out well, and I believe the 2003 is the most successful vintage Emmanuel Reynaud has yet produced. There are some stunning raw materials in these damp, dark cellars filled with many different shaped barrels and foudres ... in addition to the eccentric ghost of Jacques Reynaud.