Bordeaux Threes, 2023: 1923 – 2013

I weaved and winced my way through the throng of commuters that swarmed, seemingly in all directions at once, along the Rue Frères Bonie.

To my slight surprise, as I did so, not one person in this crowd even gave me a second glance. Nobody stopped to point at the beads of perspiration that glistened on my brow, the consequence of my having donned a black dinner jacket despite the glare of Bordeaux’s early evening sun. Nobody stared at me as I ran my finger around the inside of my collar and black tie, all of which felt ever-so-slightly too tight. Nobody stopped me to suggest that, if I loosened the laces on my dress shoes, on what I believe was their fifth outing (not that I have been counting, honest), then perhaps they would cut into my heels a little less sharply. And maybe I would be able to weave more, and wince less.

Perhaps, I thought to myself, nobody was really interested in my uncomfortable attire. After all, I was probably not the only self-conscious suited, booted and bow-tied individual they had passed that evening. I was making the short walk from my luxury hotel (a very exclusive boutique hotel – I doubt you would know it, it’s very exclusive – called Ibis Budget) to the Hôtel de Ville for the annual Académie du Vin de Bordeaux dinner, held each year during the primeurs (when not cancelled because of inconvenient pandemics). And somehow I didn’t think I was going to be the only one there.

A Theme of Three

This dinner and tasting was held in April 2023, and appropriately enough the theme was vintages ending in ‘3’. So perhaps it was not only the rigid heels of my still-nearly-new dress shoes, seemingly fashioned from razor blades, that were making me wince, as the prospects do not at first seem promising. First, the 2013 vintage was the worst of the last forty years; as I weaved and winced along I crossed the fingers of my left hand for the good luck I required to evade this vintage. Then there was 2003, a year of much more variable quality than was initially suggested twenty years ago, which gave us some great successes but also some ‘hot mess’ failures. So I also crossed the fingers of my right hand, hoping for more good luck in this regard.

Bordeaux Threes, 2023: 1923 - 2013

Looking back even further, we come to 1993, another fairly dismal vintage which turned out to be barely superior to 1991 and 1992, both of which were severely lacking. Please, I implored with my inner voice, may Bacchus and Dionysius protect me from a table laden with bottles of the 1993 vintage. But all my fingers were now crossed, so I crossed my legs instead.

Obviously this made walking even more difficult. So sensibly I uncrossed them, and continued to wince along as casually as I could.

But of course, any theme such as this will always pose challenges, and there are other more fruitful vintages ending in ‘3’. There was 1983, a successful vintage naturally overshadowed by 1982, and also 1953, universally renowned as one of the 20th century’s great vintages in Bordeaux. And while 1973 and 1963 might hold little interest, there are also the unknowns, vintages which have faded from memory. Just how was 1943? And 1933? And, indeed, 1923? Well, there is one surefire way to find out.

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