'Is the 2003 vintage from Germany the best since 1540?'

'Is the 2003 vintage from Germany the best since 1540?' If the question posed by Tanners of Shrewsbury in its opening offer of the 2003 German rieslings is rhetorical, those with the lingering taste of the great 1976 and 1959 vintages might be justified in making more modern comparisons. Because there's gathering evidence to suggest that the torrid 2003 vintage may well have produced at least the first German vintage of the century.

2003 was as scorching a vintage in Germany as it was everywhere else in Europe, and while low levels of acidity are always a threat to the delicate balance of the riesling grape, it appears that growers in Germany's more drought-resistant sites have done an excellent job of balancing the unusually high levels of ripeness, richness and opulence with sufficient mouthwatering acidity to retain that all-important elegance.

As specialist merchants issue their opening offers for this vintage, this is the time to snap up a case of 2003 German riesling, which has performed particularly well in the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer regions of the north. Among the best producers in this vintage, keep an eye out for the expressive, minerally Mosels of J J Prüm, the racy rieslings of Egon Müller, not to mention the exceptional rieslings of Ernst Loosen, Fritz Haag, Schaefer, Lieser, Dönnhoff and Bürklin-Wolf. Specialist merchants include O W Loeb (020-7234 0385), Tanners of Shrewsbury (01743 234455), Hicks & Don in Wiltshire (01380 831234), Seckford Wines in Suffolk (01394 446622) and Howard Ripley (020-8877 3065).