2003 was the hottest vintage ever witnessed in Bordeaux. The best-performing châteaux have surpassed their outstanding 2000s and some claim to have made their greatest wines in living memory.
The extreme heat of the summer presented winemakers with a stiff challenge. Sugar levels rose spectacularly in late summer with some producers jumping the gun and harvesting early in order to preserve acidity. However growers who waited until their grapes were fully ripe have been rewarded with darkly coloured, rich concentrated wines displaying astonishing depth of fruit and much complexity.
Generally speaking, the great wines of 2003 have come from the more northerly communes of the Médoc: and in particlular from Pauillac and St. Estèphe. Highlights include Lafite, Latour, Pichon Baron, Montrose and Cos d'Estournel. Quality was patchier in the southern Médoc although Château Margaux, true to form, has produced one of the wines of the vintage.
The Right Bank properties of St Emilion and Pomerol, where temperatures were even hotter, have produced uneven wines and volumes are massively reduced. Vieux Château Certan, which usually produces 4000 cases a year only produced 800 cases last year. Estates that bucked this pattern and produced outstanding wines include Figeac, Ausone, Fetyit Clinet and Angelus.
Graves and Pessac-Lèognan fared better but many chateaux have made wines which are alcoholic and expansive but lack the cool, linear fruit core which marks out the best from 2003. Exceptions are Haut-Bailly, the powerful and concentrated Domaine de Chevalier, and of course the thoroughbred stable of wines from Haut-Brion and La Misson Haut-Brion.