Aline Conus – Introduction
I have been visiting Bordeaux since 1997, but 2003 was a once in a lifetime experience since I was lucky enough to have a one to one master class in wine tasting with one of the most impressive Bordeaux Grand Crus taster of our times. We spent 4 days driving a lovely car around the vineyards and go from one Chateau to the next, more often than not being warmly welcomed by the winery owner or the Maitre de chais him/herself.
There has been so much dissention amongst critics and this is testimony to the very unusual nature of the vintage. As you will know, this was one of the hottest summers in living memory, and having spent a week in the region tasting pretty well every wine, my, how this has had an effect.
Technically, there are a multitude of factors, which cause some wines to be a disaster and others to be one of the greatest wines a property has ever made. These range from micro-climate through to soil and subsoil, through to grape variety, age of vine, viticultural techniques (such things as leaf plucking and green harvesting), harvesting date, tannin management in the wine making, level of extraction, to name but a few of the most important. One could write a whole thesis on why some properties did better than others and I find it almost impossible to generalise, only to say that Cabernet Sauvignon by and large faired better, and the greater terroir of the Medoc seemed to make a marked difference. One can generalise about the sweet wines, where I believe the top Sauternes & Barsac are some of the greatest in recent years.
There are three major difficulties I have faced in making a definitive evaluation, and as a result, I have only included in my notes wines where I have no question mark. The first difficulty and the most worrying are the nature and balance of the tannins in many wines. There are wines with extremely dry and sometimes bitter tannins. Some are balanced by reasonable acidity and equally powerful fruit and flavour, but many are not, and seem, at this stage, to be strained and constricted by the hot weather and lack any balance. The ‘elevage’ (barrel ageing, fining and filtration) will I believe play a most important role in all wines, particularly in this vintage, and particularly where a wine is marginal in its balance of tannins and fruit.
The second concern is that some wines seem to lack flavour development, although the colours and aromas seem wonderful on first approach, there is something missing in the mid-palate.
The third concern is less prevalent but is where a wine, is ‘overripe’ and ‘overblown’. Some wines have come out almost ‘port’-like, are heavy fruit driven alcoholic and massively intense and concentrated. This is not the ‘English’ taste in Bordeaux and is more appreciated by Americans and Australians who are used to these sort of wines.