Bordeaux 2003: Tasting in 2016
It is now three years since I took a detailed look at the 2003 vintage, and five years since I last pulled a selection of wines from my cellar for tasting. And so it seemed to me that now was a good time to return to this most unusual of vintages to check in once again on how the wines from my own cellar are getting on.
Reading my report from June 2011, I am reminded of the context in which I came to the wines at that time. I am sure as is now only too familiar, 2003 was Europe’s heat-wave vintage, one that saw vines in many parts of Bordeaux yellow, wilt and drop their leaves as they suffered both drought and extremes of temperature, with temperatures climbing well over 40ºC in August, on several days. The wines were, as a result, distinctive for their low acid profiles and voluptuous, soft, roasted fruit. Indeed one could say that, within Bordeaux at least, they were unique. And, at only eight years of age, at least one prominent British wine critic put out a call that the wines were fading, and it was time to drink up.
It was this that prompted me to look at that wines at that time. What I discovered then, and in my look at the vintage at ten years of age in 2013, was a vintage of two personalities (something that could also be said of the more recently reviewed 2015 vintage I suppose). The appellations further north on the left bank, especially St Estèphe and the Médoc, with their cooler and moisture-retentive clay-rich soils, showed well. Indeed, they showed very well. The middle-Médoc, Pauillac and St Julien, also did well. These appellations have given us the more successful side of the vintage, wines that were not only aging nicely, but in a number of cases demanded more time for the cellar. These were not wines to drink up. On the other side of the coin, however, came Margaux, Pomerol and Pessac-Léognan, which were less convincing. The only big-name appellation not to conveniently fall into one camp or the other was St Emilion, where the results were more mixed. Some wines were clearly demanding they be left alone for some time, while others showed signs they were already discombobulating.
Now, as the wines head towards their teenage years, it seems to me like a good time to take another quick look at the vintage.