Médoc and Graves, 2003

2003 was a truly unique year, with some great successes and many middle-of-the-road efforts. A vintage for those who enjoy super-concentrated reds, rather than the traditionalist.

It was also a year to sit in the shade as a scorching hot summer in Bordeaux, with temperatures exceeding 40 C in August, saw both human and wine catastrophes. However, as well as some real vinous disasters there were also some spectacular wines produced at the top end of the northern Médoc – as Cabernet Sauvignon generally fared much better than Merlot (with the exception of Saint-Émilion’s elite who also produced the goods).

Yields were slightly down on 2002 due to the lack of rain, and many producers found themselves with bunches of oven-roasted berries. Certain growers in the Graves began ‘panic picking’ for their whites as early as mid-August, producing wines low in acidity, while some growers began picking their Merlot in the first week of September for fear of ensuing rains which did not materialise. Those that waited, and who have water-retentive soils, benefited from an extended growing season. The Médoc’s top wines are priced high for investors, but below this there are many keenly priced wines for the consumer. Knowing your producers is especially key in 2003. The dry whites of the Graves tend to lack acidity and vibrancy, with several notable exceptions, while there were some delicious Sauternes.

The wines

Cabernet Sauvignon survived the heat better than Merlot in 2003, and so Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien were the most consistent of Médoc appellations, partly due to their clay soils holding what little moisture there was, and in certain cases produced absolute barnstormers of power and concentration with great richness and texture. In fact, the finest wines here were nothing short of spectacular with plenty of ageing potential.

Meanwhile, Margaux and the Graves suffered much more from inconsistency across their reds and whites, as sub-soils with a high gravel content could not hold on to the moisture that the fruit so desperately needed.

Médoc and Graves, 2003

2003 was a truly unique year, with some great successes and many middle-of-the-road efforts. A vintage for those who enjoy super-concentrated reds, rather than the traditionalist.

It was also a year to sit in the shade as a scorching hot summer in Bordeaux, with temperatures exceeding 40 C in August, saw both human and wine catastrophes. However, as well as some real vinous disasters there were also some spectacular wines produced at the top end of the northern Médoc – as Cabernet Sauvignon generally fared much better than Merlot (with the exception of Saint-Émilion’s elite who also produced the goods).

Yields were slightly down on 2002 due to the lack of rain, and many producers found themselves with bunches of oven-roasted berries. Certain growers in the Graves began ‘panic picking’ for their whites as early as mid-August, producing wines low in acidity, while some growers began picking their Merlot in the first week of September for fear of ensuing rains which did not materialise. Those that waited, and who have water-retentive soils, benefited from an extended growing season. The Médoc’s top wines are priced high for investors, but below this there are many keenly priced wines for the consumer. Knowing your producers is especially key in 2003. The dry whites of the Graves tend to lack acidity and vibrancy, with several notable exceptions, while there were some delicious Sauternes.

The wines

Cabernet Sauvignon survived the heat better than Merlot in 2003, and so Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe and Saint-Julien were the most consistent of Médoc appellations, partly due to their clay soils holding what little moisture there was, and in certain cases produced absolute barnstormers of power and concentration with great richness and texture. In fact, the finest wines here were nothing short of spectacular with plenty of ageing potential.

Meanwhile, Margaux and the Graves suffered much more from inconsistency across their reds and whites, as sub-soils with a high gravel content could not hold on to the moisture that the fruit so desperately needed.

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