2003 blind tasting
courtesy Keith Prothero
This was one of the most interesting and fun tastings
Iíve been to in a long time. Cassidy Dart (of Lay & Wheeler) and
Gareth Groves (of Bibendum) put together a bunch of leading Bordeaux
wines from the 2003 vintage, and nine of us (including Keith Prothero,
Neal Martin of the excellent www.wine-journal.com
and Linden Wilkie of the equally excellent Fine Wine
Experience) gathered for a wine dinner to drink them. Great idea.
All these wines were tried blind, in flights of two. I
knew the theme was Bordeaux 2003, and I figured that they would be
reasonably serious examples, but beyond this I had no knowledge of the
specific wines that were to be included. I was told that there might
be a ringer or two. The notes are as written before the identity of
the wines was revealed, and comments made with the knowledge of these
winesí identities are added after the notes.
tasting was fascinating on a number of levels. First, there was the
discussions we had about the wines, both before and after we knew what
they were. You learn a lot discussing like this.
Then there was the comparison between several of these
wines that Iíd tasted a year ago, and their performance now.
Finally, there was the comparison of the notes made here,
blind, on this eveningís showing, and the notes on these wines from
Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, which the organizers provided to us
later (it should be pointed out that it's much easier to taste the
wines now, while they've been in bottle for a while, than it was at
the en primeur tastings in Bordeaux).
I guess what brings us together is the belief that wine
can be special and thrilling, and itís fun to discuss our
perceptions of interesting wines. [I guess itís a shame where
differences of opinion become anything more than an interesting
discussion point.] There are few occasions as fun as a wine dinner
with a small number of nice people in attendance, all curious about
We were drinking these wines rather than just tasting
them. I suppose this is why the notes get a bit shorter towards the
end. Also, knowing that these wines are Bordeaux 2003 automatically
switches our critical faculties in a certain direction. Perhaps the
scores would have been higher for some of these wines if we were
tasting blind Cabernet/Merlot blends from around the world, without a
Conclusions? Hard to draw any firm ones, but it
emphasized that 2003 wasnít a straightforward vintage in Bordeaux.
It wasnít simply a matter of heat resulting in riper, sweeter wines.
Rather, in many wines there is a combination of sweet fruit with
rather unresolved, and in some cases hard tannins, because of problems
with phenolic ripeness caused by the high temperatures causing the
vines to shut down for prolonged periods. The result, in some cases,
is wines lacking the right balance.
Delicious forward, ripe, intense nose with red fruits and a
minerally, smoky, spicy edge. Very ripe and full, and quite delicious,
showing good complexity. On the palate it is very ripe and full with
lots of sweet red and black fruits. However, underneath this there is
some alcoholic heat and grippy, drying, dusty tannins. Itís an
impressive wine, enchanting at first, but then thereís an imbalance
between the sweet fruit and firm, almost austere tannins. Very
Pontet Canet 2003
Sweet aromatic nose with a lovely refined minerality. Thereís
some lovely freshness to the nose, which is quite complex. The palate
is concentrated and full with good density, together with a nice
minerally structure. Thereís quite a bit of heat here and a tough,
tannic finish, with some unresolved tannins that let this otherwise
impressive wine down a bit. Lovely nose though. Very good/excellent
An interesting flight: I guess I was at odds with
many of the others on this in preferring the Kirwan. It shows much
more aromatic precision, and despite the problematic tannins seems a
more interesting wine. Jancis Robinson didnít like the Kirwan (15);
Robert Parker did (93). Jancis didnít like the Pontet Canet, either
(16.5), while Robert Parker did (95/100).
Smooth, soft, sweet nose with ripe fruits and a bit of spicy oak. Not
much definition. The palate is sweetly fruited with some spicy
structure. Quite alcoholic and rich. The fruit is sweet and full, with
interest being provided by the spicy oak. Some firm tannins on the
finish. Overall, this lacks definition. Very good+ 88/100
Ch‚teau Gruaud Larose 2003
Sweet, ripe full nose with some chocolatey richness. The palate
has an olivey green, rather meaty richness to it. Thereís a
hollowness on the palate and some green tannins. Not really ripe, and
not very nice. I wonder if there is some brettanomyces here? Very good
disappointing flight. I was very surprised by the Gruaud Larose, which
impressed when I tasted it non-blind almost a year ago. Neither wine
really worked for me. Jancis didnít like the Sociando Mallet (15.5);
Robert Parker did (94). But then Jancis really liked Gruaud (17.5)
while Robert Parker didnít much (88).
Ch‚teau Pichon-Longueville Baron 2003
Nice sweet nose: chocolatey, spicy and rich. Itís quite intense,
sweet and full. The palate is bold, concentrated and full with rich
spicy fruit and some tannic structure. Itís an interesting, serious
wine with great balance. Very good/excellent 92/100
Cos díEstournel 2003
A striking wine. Rich, fudgey, chocolatey, toasty nose thatís
very rich and bold. Quite seductive: a very rich wine with plenty of
ripeness and fruit sweetness with a chocolatey, coffee edge to the
fruit. Bold and full; quite oaky and modern with lots of richness.
Striking, extracted, enormous. Classy in its style. Very
very strong flight: both wines are pretty serious. Pichon Baron is
superb and well balanced and has a long future ahead of it. Cos has
been touted as the wine of the vintage, and I can see why Ė itís
certainly striking. Two wines which Jancis rated very highly (18 and
18.5, respectively) as did Robert Parker (94 and 98).
Tofanelli Vineyard Zinfandel 2003 Napa
Odd, open nose with hints of oxidation and lots of volatile
acidity, along with bright pure fruit. Intriguing, sweet, raspberryish
fruit. A bit Port-like. The palate is sweet and open with dark cherry
fruit Ė now it tastes like amarone like. Evidently not Bordeaux, but
quite thrilling with ripe, dark, sweet cherry fruit. A delicious wine
in a striking, rather extreme style. Very good/excellent 93/100
Weíre back in Bordeaux territory again. This one has a nose with
rich, chocolately, roast coffee notes and some very sweet dark fruits.
The palate is bold, full and concentrated lots of oak influence, along
with the sweet fruit. Apart from slightly excessive oak (at the
moment) this is otherwise delicious. Very good/excellent 91/100
naughtily, the organizers paired the controversial Pavie with a big
Zinfandel (16%), after Jancis Robinson described it as more
reminiscent of a late-harvest Zinfandel than a red Bordeaux. She gave
it an alarmingly low score of 12/20, while Robert Parker gave it
98/100. We all thought it tasted like Bordeaux, albeit in a rather
modern style. I donít really want to get involved with the argument,
but itís not beyond the realms of possibility that this will develop
into a pretty serious wine with a decadeís bottle age.
wines tasted included:
Evolved, spicy, quite rich and bold. Itís open with lots of
evolution Ė evidently quite old. Tastes like old wine, and in this
sense itís drinking OK without being anything special. Not dead just
yet. Very good 80/100
Ch‚teau Pichon Lalande Comtesse 1975
Dark, chocolatey, spicy evolved nose. Quite robust and full; ripe
and bold. The palate is rich and full with some spicy tannins. Very
intense and concentrated still: a bold wine with lots of weight.
Meaty, dark and rich. Very good/excellent 93/100
Gruaud Larose 1990
Green herbal edge to the slightly meaty vegetal fruit, and shows
some evolution. The palate is vegetal and herby with a sweetness to
the fruit, but greenness is the overriding character. Not that nice.
Very good 82/100
this wine seems to have been well received in the past by Neal, who
was present at the dinner (http://www.wine-journal.com/message_guessing_game.html,
- where he describes it as one of the best ever Gruauds). Not on this
showing. Perhaps this is the lottery of brettanomyces? Who knows. Or
maybe everyone just got it wrong, which is less likely.
Wines tasted 08/06
these wines with wine-searcher.com
Back to top