2003 Bordeaux -— The Hottest Year Ever
The 2003 vintage was the hottest ever on record in Bordeaux. It was an extreme year, and the wines vary widely as a result. Some properties in Pauillac, Saint Estephe, and Saint Julien made ripe, inky, massively concentrated wines that may go down as historic. In many other instances, the drought and heat were too much, resulting in wines that lack balance, freshness of fruit, and acidity.
The intense heat began in June and continued pretty much unabated through the entire summer. In many cases, the vines simply shut down from stress -— even the nights were hot. It rained in the middle of August, and again in early September, which revived the vines a bit, but for many, it was too little too late. Yields were very low due to the heat and drought, and the harvest started and ended early as sugars raced and acidities fell. Old vines and vineyards located in the most water retentive soils fared the best -— Saint Estephe is notable, as is Pauillac, but Pomerol struggled. In Sauternes and Barsac, the September sprinkles provided just enough moisture for botrytis to form. The resulting wines are rich and powerful, super lush, and low acid.
2003 is a vintage to buy with caution except for the very top wines. For many, their best appeal may have been their ripe, upfront fruit, a characteristic that may fade sooner rather than later in all but the most successful wines of the vintage.