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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

NEWLY-LANDED 2003  BORDEAUX & SAUTERNES EN PRIMEUR FROM SCENIC CELLARS AND GLENGARRY


Scenic Cellars annual en-primeur-on-arrival tasting in Taupo is an eagerly-awaited event on keen wine-tasters' calendars,  with participants coming from Auckland,  Hawkes Bay and Wellington,  and places in between.  This year’s attracted great interest,  because it was the much talked-about 2003 vintage.  Their tasting included most of the top wines presented in the reviews below.  

Glengarry Wines have an even more extensive en primeur campaign each year than Scenic Cellars,  and they too present some follow-up tastings once the wines arrive.  Their tastings do not have quite the sense of occasion that Scenic Cellars have created for their presentation,  mainly because whilst Scenic specifically save top-end wines for their tasting,  the Glengarry ones tend to comprise leftovers still on the shelf to sell.  Considering the number of people who buy bordeaux en primeur these days,  it is astonishing that the other practicing en primeur importers do not present tastings of a representative sample of their range,  to celebrate the arrival of the wine two and a half years later.

Much has been said and written about the 2003 vintage in Europe.  Much can be gleaned from the Net,  and good wine publications. The essence of the matter is the heat and dryness.  It was a season in which districts usually marginal for ripeness and warmth excelled.  Specifically this meant St Estephe with its deeper moisture-retentive clay soils which are slow to warm in some seasons,  and the northern Medoc.  But for us here in New Zealand,  where to our astonishment we are discovering that even in New Zealand,  reds can be over-ripened (after generations of being lampooned by Australians),  it is a year of immense interest.  In sum,  would the 2003 Bordeaux wines despite the heat still retain the complexity and regional signature which makes bordeaux still pre-eminent amongst cabernet / merlots in the world,  or would they be hot-climate and in the Napa or Australian style ?  The question is important,  because Hawkes Bay is uniquely placed by virtue of its climate to emulate the complexity of the classical Bordeaux style.  Thus,  some of us argue for the pursuit of subtlety as an over-riding goal in Hawkes Bay blends.  Many  winemakers however are pushing ripeness further,  in a mistaken aspiration to emulate the riper international style.  

The short answer to the question in my estimation is,  Bordeaux 2003 are in general still gloriously traditional,  just at the riper end of the spectrum.  They have been more influenced by winemakers introducing artefact than by the climate.  And there is thus no case for Hawkes Bay proprietors to be apeing Australian or Californian winestyles.  Why would they wish to,  I ask.  We have the potential to make something subtler and rarer,  which the European market will pay for.  And some Americans too,  maybe – those not beholden to the Californian super-ripe model.

The wines themselves are thus immensely interesting,  and they engendered quite spirited debate amongst a diverse groups of tasters,  chaired by Steve Smith M.W.  As is often the case,  when winemakers join public tastings,  there was a division of approach.  Amateur and consumer-advocate tasters tended to discuss each wine as a whole,  and the nett impressions and delight (or otherwise) the wine conveyed.  Winemaker and some MW-level tasters,  in contrast,  tend to a more analytical and deconstructing approach,  in which perceived technical faults even at quite minor level can lead to a wine being dealt with harshly.  I'm not in a good position to criticise here,  for I tend to be hard on overtly modern-style wines which reek of coffee or chocolate – artefact-laden wines which are made to impress the American palate.  This is equally a single-factor judgment.  I have attempted to at least explain myself in the notes which follow.  But observing such debates does illustrate how personal each individual's assessment of wine is.  Some of the straightforward wine-lovers present found such technical debate all a bit tiresome,  whereas the participants loved it.  

The message for consumers as always is,  read all wine-commentators,  and once the wines are tasted personally,  go back and gradually discern whose palate best serves your interests.  This approach assumes the wine writer is skilled enough to be consistent in their recognition of wine components,  and in their subsequent use of words.  It is these two attributes which make Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker pre-eminent amongst current commentators,  and further,  their tasting reports complement each other delightfully,  in presenting essentially old world and new world takes on each wine.

The Scenic Cellars tasting was at Taupo,  1 October 2006.  Their tasting room is upstairs,  virtually on the lake shore.  The day was perfect,  and the view across the room and down the length of the lake to Mt Ruapehu was breathtaking.  In contrast,  Glengarry's tastings are in city-bound rooms lacking such splendid ambience.  They do however present tastings in both Auckland and Wellington.  Their tastings were in late July and August.  The wines are interleaved in the following report,  but could not be tasted together.  Which tasting a wine was in can be told from the date.  The price shown is an approximate landed cost,  if the wine had been bought en primeur – merely a guideline.  Buying en primeur usually results in a final price c. 33% less than final full retail shelf price,  if the wine ever reaches the shelf.  Quotes below are paraphrased.

Acknowledgement:  vineyard details and winery practices notes are from the indispensable reference Parker 2003,  which must generalise the data over the range of seasons.  Sometimes details specific to the unusual 2003 vintage have been mentioned by Parker,  Robinson,  or Farr Vintners on their websites,  and these have been substituted where known.

Parker,  Robert,  2003:  Bordeaux  Simon & Schuster,  1244 p.


LAYOUT,  and THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Riesling
Pinot Gris
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
2003  Ch Carmes de Rieussec
2003  Ch Coutet
2003  Ch Guiraud
2003  Ch Rieussec
2001  Ch d’Yquem
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Red
Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2003  Ch Angelus
2003  Ch d’Angludet
2003  Ch Beausejour-Becot
2003  Ch la Cabanne
2003  Carruades de Lafite
2003  Ch Charmail
2003  Ch Cos d’Estournel
  2003  Ch la Fleur de Bouard
2003  Ch Gazin
2003  Ch Haut Batailley
2003  Ch Haut-Brion
2003  Ch Lafite Rothschild
2003  Ch Lagrange
2003  Ch Lascombes
2003  Ch Leoville-Barton
2003  Ch Margaux
2003  Ch Montrose
2003  Ch Moulin Haut-Laroque
2003  Ch Mouton-Rothschild
2003  Ch Pape-Clement
2003  Ch Phelan-Segur
2003  Ch Potensac
2003  Ch Quinault l'Enclos
2003  Ch Smith Haut Lafitte
2003  Vieux Chateau Certan
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.


White
Sweet / Sticky
2001  Ch d’Yquem   19 ½  ()
Sauternes Grand Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $600   [ cork;  Se 80%,  SB 20,  planted to 6500 vines / ha,  cropped @ c. 8 hL/ha (0.4 t/ac),  average vine age 30 years;  BF and 42 months in new French oak;  Parker:… this perfect sweet white … with airing, honeyed tropical fruit, orange marmalade, pineapple, sweet creme brulee and nuts … full-bodied, refreshing acidity … will take its place amongst the legendary vintages of the past … 100;  Robinson:  Quite exceptionally rich, heady and unctuous on the nose … extremely round and complete with just a hint of bitter marmalade … super-ripe … heavy botrytis … 19.5;  Wine Spectator also rate it 100 points;  price has increased markedly since landing;  www.chateau-yquem.fr ]
Lemon with a faint gold wash,  the lightest of the three sauternes.  So much has been written about this wine from the great 2001 vintage in Sauternes,  and so many having described it as the perfect 20-point /100-point wine,  it is redundant to describe it further.  At this stage it is infantile,  the new oak (for 42 months) obtrusive.  It is not as rich as I had imagined,  the residual sugar being a relatively low 150 g/L,  but the concentration,  length and aftertaste are superb – a function of the sugar-free dry extract being approximately 50 g/L,  an extraordinary figure.  The staggering quality is the acid balance,  so dramatically piquant and fresh compared with all the 2003s I have tasted.  This freshness is where the 2001 sweet Bordeaux excel.  In 10 years time the wine should be magical.  To quote Robert Parker again:  Everything is uplifted and given laser-like focus by refreshing acidity.  It will cellar for decades.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Coutet   19  ()
Barsac Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $70   [ cork;  Se 75%,  SB 23,  Muscadelle 2,  planted @ 5600 vines / ha,  average age 35 years;  BF and 16 – 18 months in oak with 50% new each year;  Parker: [ no specific notes,  but a score ] 92:  Robinson:  light, leafy nose - not one of the most impressive. Sweet start. Burnt edge. Quite neat and very long. Not bad at all but just overwhelmed by some more complex and more obviously sweet wines. 16.5;  no website – the one given in Parker (mistakenly) leads to a red St Emilion of the same name ]
Bright lemonstraw,  very attractive.  Bouquet is sensational,  combining citrus blossom and mock orange blossom florals with fresh cherimoya,  lychee,  grapefruit and fresh cut pineapple (in a positive sense),  plus suggestions of mealyness from barrel-ferment,  and beautiful botrytis.  Palate is luscious on the superbly pure botrytis,  long and elegant,  subtle tropical fruit salad,  just enough acid to be refreshing,  lovely oak.  This wine has a delicacy and balance quite unexpected for the year.  Very beautiful.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Guiraud   18 +  ()
Sauternes Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $80   [ cork;  Se 65%,  SB 35,  planted @ 6600 vines / ha,  average age 35 – 40 years;  hand-picked via up to 6 harvests;  BF 3 – 9 weeks,  and 18 – 24 months in oak with up to 100% new each year;  Parker: [ no specific notes,  but a score ] 94;  Robinson: ... very big and sweet - massive unctuosity. … a coconut streak that slightly worries me but this would be deeply satisfying as a sweet drink. Fresh, clean on the finish. Long, a bit heavy.  17;  www.chateau.guiraud.fr ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is deeper and richer than the Coutet,  with a darker more yellow floral component,  on nearly over-ripe grapefruit and fruit salad,  all a bit heavier than the Coutet.  Palate continues in the same style,  the fruits all a little darker,  rock melon,  golden peaches,  and slightly over-cooked marmalade,  acid marginal,  the finish slightly toffee’d.  A weightier wine than the Coutet,  yet broader and more developed as well,  and hence a shorter term cellar prospect,  5 – 15 years.  It will still provide much pleasure.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Carmes de Rieussec   18  ()
Sauternes second wine of Ch Rieussec,  France:   – %;  $50   [ cork;  Se 85%,  SB 10,  Muscadelle 5;  18 months in French oak;  www.lafite.com ]
Lightish gold,  the deepest of the three sauternes.  In its exotic fruits,  this is closely related to the grand vin,  but it is lighter,  plus there is also a high-solids complexity note in bouquet – less offensive here than in chardonnay,  for example.  On palate it is both more phenolic and more acid than its senior,  the oak older and the flavour in one sense lesser to the lushness of the other,  but the total balance is superior.  This should cellar better than the grand vin,  for 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Rieussec   17 ½ +  ()
Sauternes Premier Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $85   [ cork;  Se 92%,  SB 5,  Muscadelle 3,  planted to 7500 vines / ha,  cropped @ c. 15 hL/ha (0.75 t/ac),  average vine age 25;  BF and 18 – 30 months in new French oak;  Parker: [ no specific notes,  but a score ] 96;  Robinson: ... impressive … but not fine … very sweet … not for fans of subtlety  17.5;  www.lafite.com ]
Lemon,  with a little more gold wash then the ’01 Yquem.  This is extraordinary wine,  made totally in a modern instant gratification style:  tropical fruits and flavours right up to pawpaw through bouquet and palate,  ample botrytis,  delicate and fragrant new oak,  lush and soft to the point of lacking acid (and oak),  almost flabby to the finish,  but very rich.  Passionfruit icecream dessert wine,  to match Australian boysenberry icecream shiraz reds.  Not one to cellar for long at all,  perhaps only 10 years.  GK 10/06

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2003  Ch Montrose   19 ½  ()
St Estephe Second Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $160   [ cork;  CS 62%,  Me 34,  CF 3,  PV 1,  planted to 9000 vines / ha,  average vine age 43,  cropped @ 35 hl/ha (c. 1.8 t/ac) in 2003 (against an average of 42 (2.2 t/ac));  3 – 4 week cuvaison,  temperature-controlled;  MLF in tank; 18 months in French oak 50 – 70% new;  Parker:  This superb, huge, ripe wine is one of the vintage's most prodigious offerings … blackberries,  cassis,  fabulous purity,  substantial tannin ...  97;  Robinson: ... deep and dense in every way,  yet wonderful freshness ... not a hint of over-ripeness ... the tannins beautifully ripe and sustained. 19;  price has increased markedly since landing. ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the second deepest of this set.  Top wine of the tasting for me was second-growth Ch Montrose.  It showed a concentration of pure cassis,  dark florals (violets) and black plum fruit which reigned supreme,  essence of cabernet / merlot,  shaped by classical cedary oak,  but not dominated by artefact-laden charry / coffee oak as is increasingly the trend in modern bordeaux.  Palate is unbelievably dense,  pure,  super-concentrated and crisp,  showing wondrously ripe cassis and pipe-tobacco notes,  but no sur-maturité.  Acid balance is fresh and excellent,  and the grape tannins are marvellous,  shaped by but again not dominated by classically-styled oak.  

This is absolutely great claret,  as inspiring to me now as 1966 Ch Palmer was in my formative wine years.  It is made in the way bordeaux traditionally has been,  essence of bordeaux,  Englishman's claret,  before public taste shifted towards the more obvious flavours beloved by American wine commentators – chocolate, coffee and other artefacts deliberately added to the wine by the winemaker,  via cooperage tricks.  In the tasting,  my enthusiasm for the wine was regarded as a little iconoclastic by the gathering,  perhaps because I draw my yardsticks from earlier vintages (and practices) than most attending.  I will therefore note in passing that it is Jancis Robinson's top bordeaux of the vintage.  This Montrose should cellar for 20 – 40 years easily (as the aforementioned 66 Palmer has,  I can confirm) – it should not be touched for 10 years.  Very little reached New Zealand – just a few cases – so if you ever see it at auction,  grab it.  It won't be cheap – this wine's reputation will grow by the year.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Lafite Rothschild   19  ()
Pauillac First Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $500   [ cork;  CS 86,  Me 9,  CF 3,  PV 2,  planted to 7500 vines / ha,  cropped @ 33 hL/ha (1.7 t/ac) in 2003 (against an average of 48 (2.5 t/ac)), average vine age 45 years;  3 – 4 weeks cuvaison;  MLF in tank;  18 – 20 months in new French oak;  Parker:  ... creme de cassis ... extraordinary richness, opulence, power, purity intensity and viscosity ... high tannins ... pH 3.9.  100;  Robinson:  ... all the dancing finesse of Lafite on song ... round and opulent but never heavy, sufficient acid ... 18.5 +;  www.lafite.com ]
Older ruby and some velvet,  one of the lighter.  This too is great bordeaux,  and the closest to the Montrose in style,  irrespective of commune characters.  There is intense cassis and berry,  showing a slightly more modern approach to the oak than the Montrose,  with a little coffee and char.  Berry on palate is not quite as intense and concentrated as the Montrose,  but the oak may be more beautiful,  I have to admit,  and in 10 years time it will be cedary and compelling.  This will make a very exciting bottle – many tasters,  including most winemakers,  rated this their top wine.  Cellar 15 – 35 years.  Chairman Steve Smith of Craggy Range described it as: sensational wine, perfect !  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Angelus   18 ½ +  ()
St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $275   [ cork;  Me 58,  CF 42,  planted to 7500 vines / ha,  average vine age 30 years;  3 – 5 week cuvaison,  18 – 24 months and MLF in new French oak;  Parker: ... a beautiful perfumed nose, broad sweet and tannic mid-section, likely to put on considerable weight in bottle.  93;  Robinson: ... super-concentrated, almost syrupy, very pronounced tannin, difficult to relate to St Emilion, not my style ... 16;  www.chateau-angelus.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  much the densest wine in the set.  This is a very big wine indeed,  making one think of some Australian examples – RWT for example.  But only one sniff is needed to confirm it does indeed show the complexity and magic of Bordeaux,  tasters commenting on a floral component despite the lashings of new (but not unduly charry) oak.  Winemaker Tony Bish (Sacred Hill) was ecstatic about the quality of the cabernet franc in this wine.  Palate is densely berry,  cherry-like from the cabernet franc,  and darkly plummy from the merlot,  but the total tannin load is colossal.  The latter component lead some to down-point the wine,  noting a bitter streak.  I heard brett mentioned too,  but the level was academic.  The remedy for the tannin is simply to cellar the wine till it crusts,  when magically something much softer and more beautiful will emerge – as some of the 1960s big years in the Hunter Valley and South Australia so clearly showed about 10 years ago.  Cellar 20 – 40 + years.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Cos d’Estournel   18 ½ +  ()
St Estephe Second Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $270   [ cork,  CS 70%,  Me 27,  PV 2,  CF 1,  planted to 8 – 10 000 vines / ha,  cropped @ 30 hL / ha (1.6 t/ac) in 2003 (against an average of 50 (2.6 t/ac)),  average vine age 35 years;  3 weeks cuvaison in tank,  18 months in French oak 80% new;  pH 3.7;  Parker:  Prodigious … a compelling perfume of black fruits,  incense and flowers … extraordinary richness,  full body,  remarkable freshness … one of the finest ever ... 98;  Robinson: ... opulent,  rich,  fresh and fragrant on the nose .. well balanced,  fine tannins … really fine quality.  18.5;  www.estournel.com ]
Dense ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine,  not quite the depth and freshness of the Montrose.  Though all agreed the Cos was superb,  this was another wine producing a diversity of opinion on style. Bouquet is magnificent,  showing no signs of excess heat,  merely ripest and richest cassis and darkest plums all rounded out by fine oak,  which is chocolatey but more cedary.  It is pretty well as concentrated as the Montrose,  reflecting the excellence of St Estephe in this drought year.  It is however made more in the modern American style,  much softer and rounder with chocolatey and coffee notes in the oak,  compared with the more classically austere Montrose.  Palate is rich,  drying tannins of superb ripeness,  and great richness and intensity.  Fruit is more dark plummy than cassis,  as if merlot were dominant,  the berry lingering attractively in mouth.  The style of oak is again a bit chocolatey at the finish,  but this is great wine,  of first growth quality.  Once it loses some tannin,  it will be even better.  

But,  those who favour this style do not seem to acknowledge that it is moving towards an international one,  losing the precise varietal typicity of bordeaux.  This is supposed to be the nub of the matter terroir apologists are on about.  Perhaps winemakers tend to like this style,  because it is more easily achieved than the classical beauty of traditional bordeaux.  Like the Montrose,  the technical excellence of the wine was praised.  It is certainly great to see the reductive phase that Cos lingered in for too many (unacknowledged) years is now in the past.  Top wine for some tasters.  [Cos also figured in one of the Glengarry tastings,  where without competition,  it looked superb.]  Cellar 10 – 40 years.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Margaux   18 ½ +  ()
Margaux First Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $500   [ cork;  CS 83%,  Me 12,  CF & PV 5,  planted to 10 000 vines / ha,  cropped @ 30 hL/ha (1.6 t/ac) in 2003 (against an average of 45 (2.3 t/ac)),  average vine age 35 years;  3 weeks cuvaison in cuves;  18 – 24 months in French oak 100% new;  Parker: ... notes of spring flowers and creme de cassis ... a profound Margaux ...  99;  Robinson: ... deep and serious,  concentrated,  fresh yet not alcoholic,  lowest-ever acid levels. 18;  www.chateau-margaux.com ]
Ruby and some velvet,  older and lighter than the Montrose,  the second-lightest in this bracket.  This wine engendered a lot of debate,  with winemakers praising its technical purity and richness of fruit (though less than Montrose or Lafite,  I thought),  and some stylists objecting to excessive pandering to populist chocolate and coffee tastes in the oak.  The point was well made,  that in 10 years,  the new char flavours evident now will have married away into the wine.  Yet I for one regret that for a wine traditionally famed for its (at best) perfume of violets and dark sweet florals (both Chateau Margaux,  and the Margaux commune,  at best),  it is a pity to bury such unique and individual beauty under something so coarse and commonplace as coffee odours.  And coffee is not a part of grape chemistry,  unlike tea !  Oak aside,  the balance is excellent,  tannin seeming to substitute for acid in the hot year.  This will be an interesting wine to follow over the next three decades – for those able to do so.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Pape-Clement   18 ½  ()
Graves-Pessac-Leognan,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $145   [ cork;  CS 60%,  Me 40,  average age 30 years,  planted to 7700 vines / ha;  hand-picked @ 25 hL/ha (1.3 t/ac) in 2003 (against an average of 39 (2 t/ac);  hand-destemmed and sorted 100%;  20 – 35 days cuvaison in oak cuves,  MLF,  LA and batonnage then c. 18 – 20 months in 70 – 100% new oak “so that the touch of wood is as delicate and discreet as possible”;  Pape-Clement ‘has the longest continuous history of any in Bordeaux,  having been first planted in 1300’ (Peppercorn);  Parker:  Complex smoke, shavings, sweet plums, black cherry liqueur, blackberries, and a hint of espresso are followed by an opulent, full-bodied savory expansive wine ... 94;  Robinson: ...dark, spicy and rich. Flattering. Seems sweet … Pretty good, but a bit inky. Pinched tannins.  17;  other related estates @ www.bernard-magrez.com;  www.pape-clement.com ]
Deep ruby and velvet,  old for age,  the deepest of the first flight.  This is the finest and most complex bouquet in the first bracket,  with true Bordeaux vinosity,  complexity,  and charm (and a whisper of brett).  Cassis and plum meld into a vinosity which scarcely reveals which variety is dominant,  but it is aromatic.  In terms of appeal,  there is almost an overlap with fine Cote de Nuits,  too.  Oak is new,  lightly toasty,  and in the background.  Palate is fresh,  rich and supple,  aromatic and charming,  all qualities not so apparent in some of these wines.  Aftertaste is elegant berry and oak,  beautifully integrated as in a 10-year old wine.  Already delicious,  or cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Leoville-Barton   18 +  ()
St Julien Second Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $90   [ cork;  CS 72%,  Me 20,  CF 8,    planted to 9000 vines / ha,  average vine age 30 years;  2 – 3 weeks cuvaison in wood;  20 months in French oak 50% new;  Parker: ... formidably powerful,  a promising nose of creme de cassis,  smoke,  liquorice and perhaps even truffle.  It is layered and rich ... 95;  Robinson: ... not much nose ... lots of very ripe merlot ... could do with a bit more structure ... not the usual magic.  16.5;  website scarcely functional as yet;  www.leoville-barton.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is classical Bordeaux,  a little old-fashioned maybe (brett was mentioned),  but showing a lot of style.  It is more obviously a hot year wine than the Montrose,  the cassis and plum slightly raisiny / over-ripe / sur-maturité,  but the oak though noticeable at this stage,  is not charry.  It will become cedary with age.  Just a slight worry the oak may outlive the fruit,  so maybe cellar 10 – 25 years only.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Smith Haut Lafitte   18 +  ()
Graves-Pessac-Leognan,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $77   [ cork;  CS 55,  Me 35,  CF 10,  planted at 7500 – 10 000 vines / ha,  cropped at c. 32 hL/ha (1.7 t/ac),  average age 30 years;  Parker: ... a sweet bouquet of creme de cassis, smoked herbs, lead pencil, and subtle wood ... medium to full-bodied, low acidity, opulent ... 92;  Robinson: ... lively tealeaf aromas ... easy ...no signs of overripeness ... slightly dry tannins at the finish.  17;  www.smith-haut-lafitte.com ]
Ruby,  a little velvet.  Bouquet needs a little air to open up,  then moves into the international coffee and chocolate class,  and initial impressions are ho-hum as a consequence.  In mouth there is fine cassis and plummy fruit,  not quite as rich as the Cos but the tannins gentler,  the balance impeccable.  One won't have to wait so long for this.  Finish is back to the chocolate of the bouquet,  but berryfruit flavours persist well too.  This should become very more-ish.  Cellar 10 – 30 years.  GK 08/06

2003  Ch Haut Batailley   18  ()
Pauillac Fifth Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $51   [ cork;  CS 65%,  Me 25,  CF 10,  average age 30 years,  planted to 10 000 vines / ha;  16 – 20 days cuvaison in s/s;  16 – 20 months in 30 – 50% new oak;  Parker: ... somewhat superficial effort … aromas of cranberries, sweet cherries, black currants, and spicy new oak … medium-bodied, shallow finish.  87 ]
Older ruby and some velvet,  below halfway in depth.  Bouquet is clear-cut Medoc,  stern cassis and dark plum,  with potentially cedary oak.  Palate is clean,  tight and firm,  with good acid balance,  and taut berry flavours a little phenolic at this stage,  but clearly Bordeaux.  Sound but not enchanting claret,  offering great value.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Mouton-Rothschild   18  ()
Pauillac First Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $440   [ cork;  CS 76,  Me 14,  CF 8,  PV 2,  planted to 8500 vines / ha,  cropped @ 28 hL/ha (1.5 t/ac) in 2003 (against an average of 45 (2.3 t/ac));  average vine age 45 years;  up to 3.5 weeks cuvaison in wood,  19 – 22 months in new French oak;  Parker: ... backward,  powerful,  and extremely tannic,  full-bodied … 95;  Robinson: ... super-ripe,  almost pruney,  with very severe tannins obvious,  presumably in an effort to counteract the extreme ripeness … 17.5;  www.mouton-rothschild.com ]
Older ruby and velvet.  This is a wine putting beauty before size.  It is very fragrant indeed,  on red fruits and old-fashioned pure cedary oak,  and will develop the classic bordeaux tobacco complexity as it ages.  Only fair to record it is not a big wine,  and given the price many tasters were disappointed with it.  Later reference to Parker’s and Robinson’s thoughts were puzzling too,  noting they were reporting on barrel samples at the 6 months stage.  To add to the confusion,  a bottle in one of the Glengarry tastings was quite different,  much more four-square,  more oaky and the oak bacony,  the style more Penfolds Bin-like.  Nonetheless as a wine I think it will give a lot of pleasure,  and be accessible sooner than some of the 2003s.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Beausejour-Becot   17 ½ +  ()
St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe,  France:  13.5%;  $85   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CF 24,  CS 6,  average age 35 years,  planted to 6200 vines / ha on calcareous SPMs;  hand-picked,  fruit hand-sorted before and after de-stemming;  cuvaison up to 30 days depending on vintage,  MLF and LA in barrel,  then 16 – 18 months in oak 80 – 100% new;  consultant M. Rolland Laboratory;  website difficult;  www.beausejour-becot.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is richly plummy and oaky,  merlot in an almost New World style,  but at least the fruit is dominant.  Palate is very plummy too,  youthful,  the oak not as apparent as some,  but all tending warm climate and drying on the tannins.  There are Gimblett Gravels merlots not unlike this.  Once this wine loses some tannin,  it should be more clearly a St Emilion.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Haut-Brion   17 ½ +  ()
Graves-Pessac-Leognan First Growth,  France:  13%;  $400   [ cork;  Me 58%,  CS 31, CF 11,  planted to 8000 vines / ha,  average vine age 36;  fermentation in tank,  up to 22 months in new French oak;  Parker: ... a cascade of mulberry, blackberry, cherry and plum-like fruit … even a hint of figs, broad, ripe, extremely high tannin … both power and finesse.  95;  Robinson:  ... fruity, youthful and very dry … simpler than La Mission Haut-Brion … rather a monolith ...  17 +;  www.haut-brion.com ]
Older ruby,  much the lightest of the Scenic set.  Like the Mouton,  this was another wine putting beauty before size.  Bouquet is sweet in a florals sense,  fragrant in a new-leathery way,  with indeterminate red fruits all through.  On palate red plums and red currants dominate,  gentle new oak already slightly cedary,  and integrated and gentle.  This is easy to drink and very attractive.  Like the Mouton, many felt it was too light for the reputation and price.  For both these wines,  I could not help thinking they were something of a joke,  alongside the excellence of the Montrose.  Nonetheless,  it will provide plenty of pleasure at table,  particularly for those to whom label is more important than actuality.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Lascombes   17 ½  ()
Margaux Second Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $75   [ cork;  CS 50%,  Me 45,  PV 5,  average age 40 years,  planted 8 – 10 000 vines / ha;  hand-picked @ 36 hL/ha (1.9 t/ac) in 2003;  hand-sorted before and after destemming;  up to 40 days cuvaison;  MLF and 4 months LA in barrel,  up to 20 months total in 80% new oak;  consultant M. Rolland Laboratory;  Parker: ... a big, sweet nose of  smoke, plum liqueur, creme de cassis, flowers, new saddle leather … a full-bodied palate … loads of black fruits, low acidity, savory ...  92;  Robinson: ... vital and concentrated and vibrant … some top-quality oak …savoury, appetizing fruit with soft acidity, but then on the finish it seems the oak is overdone.  16;  www.chateau-lascombes.com ]
Older ruby in velvet,  above halfway in depth.  Initially opened,  the wine is dull,  with heavy charry oak in an Australian style.  With breathing and standing,  the berry expands and the wine improves markedly,  to give a quite rich but one-dimensional plummy palate,  still with a lot of very toasty oak – burnt toast.  Those who like this artefact in red wine will call it chocolatey.  Ends up as good cabernet / merlot in a modern hot-climate oaky style,  but not much Margaux typicity – or Bordeaux for that matter.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Moulin Haut-Laroque   17 ½  ()
Fronsac,  Bordeaux,  France:  14.3%;  $35   [ cork;  Me 65%,  CF 20, CS 10, Ma 5;  33% of vines more than 50 years old,  hand-picked;  grapes twice over sorting tables,  MLF in barrel,  up to 15 months in French oak 33% new;  Parker:  A tremendous effort ... scents of blueberries, blackberries, and flowers ... tremendously rich fruit ... broad, powerful flavors, surprising density ... sleeper of the vintage.  90;  www.moulinhautlaroque.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some age apparent.  Initial impressions are of a quite heavily oaked wine,  in a hotter-climate tending Australian style.  In mouth however,  there are immediately green tannins and a hard streak,  coupled with good cassisy and plummy fruit,  not obviously merlot dominant.  The wine is richer than Quinault,  but also harder,  and will need longer in cellar to blossom,  10 – 25 years.  GK 08/06

2003  Carruades de Lafite   17 +  ()
Pauillac second wine of Ch Lafite,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $80   [ cork;  Me 50%,  CS 8,  CF 2,  18 months in 10 – 15% new oak;  Parker:  This amazing red, opulent, rich, and luscious with silky tannin, enormous body, and wave after wave of mocha-infused black cherry and cassis fruit.  93;  Robinson: ... greenness on the nose. Sweet start to the palate then remarkably gentle in texture - Lafite character. Tannins so well managed that this is my favourite Carruades for some time.  16.5+;  www.lafite.com ]
Older ruby in some velvet.  This wine has the most normal Bordeaux bouquet of the bracket,  in the sense it shows cassisy berry fragrance and freshness,  on subtle oak which is potentially cedary.  Palate is a little less,  a slight stalky thought floating up in the cassis and red plum,  but the whole wine shows typicity,  balance,  restraint and style.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch la Fleur de Bouard   17 +  ()
Lalande de Pomerol,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $59   [ cork;  Me 85%,  CF 8,  CS 7,  planted at 6,500 – 8,500 vines / ha,  cropped conservatively (the 2002 @ at 27 hL/ha (1.4 t/ac)),  hand-picked,  grapes twice over sorting tables;  up to 4 weeks cuvaison in tank,  up to 24 months in French oak 85% new;  same ownership as Ch Angelus;  Parker:  Aromas of melted asphalt, blackberries, and raspberries are followed by a medium-bodied, lush, textured, fleshy claret ...  89;  Robinson:  Some green notes on the nose. Then an inkiness and preponderance of oak ... difficult to imagine it becoming harmonious. 14;  2003 not on website yet;  www.la-fleur-de-bouard.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine,  as deep as the Cos.  Bouquet is modern international in its chocolatey oak component.  There is good cassis and dark plummy fruit below,  though one can't see the merlot predominance too clearly due to the artefact.  Palate has the same green streak as the Haut-Laroque,  and the fruit and chocolate don't cover it up quite as well as some others,  so one is left with a mean suggestion in the aftertaste.  Has the richness to mellow in cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 08/06

2003  Ch Quinault l'Enclos   17 +  ()
St Emilion Grand Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $62   [ cork;  Me 77%,  CF 17,  CS & Ma 6,  planted at 5800 vines /ha,  cropped at 28 hL/ha (1.5 t/ac) in 2003,  typically @ 38 (2 t/ac),  average age 50 years;  Parker: ... a charming bouquet of flowers and berries ... medium-bodied, pure, beautifully-textured flavors ... but lacks the richness of top vintages.  89;  www.chateau-quinault.com ]
Glowing ruby.  Bouquet is greatly influenced by the charry oak,  with a passing suggestion of smoked fish (+ve),  on plummy fruit.  Palate is not quite so promising,  with a suggestion of green tannins,  another with a hard streak,  in the plummy fruit.  The finish is therefore rather dominated by tannin-related features.  Once it loses some tannin,  which may take 10 years,  it will look more friendly.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 08/06

2003  Ch Phelan-Segur   17  ()
St Estephe Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $42   [ cork;  CS 60%,  Me 35,  CF 5, average age 35 years,  planted to 8300 vines / ha;  cuvaison 20 days in s/s;  18 months in 50 – 60% new oak;  Parker: ... a sweet nose of creme de cassis, licorice, dried herbs … It is fresh, rich, savory, with velvety-textured tannins … a sleeper of the vintage.  88;  Robinson: ... verging on jammy. Bright fruit, lots of life but without the spark of acidity ... Quite rich and savoury and convincing.  Long. 17;  the website www.chateauphelansegur.com is at present reserved,  not yet developed. ]
Older ruby and some velvet.  Bouquet shows an attractive dominance of red berry and plum over oak,  with a suggestion of tobacco,  and lower alcohol than some.  Palate is very dry,  even though the red fruits persist well,  and this too will be more attractive once it has lost some phenolics / tannins.  Attractive purity,  could move up in rankings.   Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch d’Angludet   16 ½ +  ()
Margaux Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel,  France:  13%;  $50   [ cork;  CS 55%,  Me 35,  PV 10,  planted to 6700 vines / ha,  average vine age 25;  fermentation in tank,  cuvaison up to 5  weeks,  up to 12 months ageing in French oak 30 – 35 % new;  Parker: ... fragrant with flowers, black cherry jam, licorice, and barbecue spice … velvety-textured, medium-bodied ... 89;  Robinson: ... low-key nose of ripe black berries … soft, easy, dry tannins … a bit awkward ... 15;  www.chateau-angludet.fr ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest.  Compared with the main Scenic Cellars tasting of 9 classed growths,  this wine had a certain hearty cru bourgeois robustness to it which was quite refreshing.  (It was opened afterwards,  as a red to accompany a handsome lunch.  I was able to re-examine all the wines together afterwards,  for these notes.)  Bouquet is deeply plummy,  some cassis,  more old oak than new,  and some brett.  Palate shows good richness,  in fact an almost best-Chilean plumpness,  but cooperage is plain.  It  made one realise that a little brett in some of the classed growths really did not detract from their finesse very much,  and in fact added a savoury complexity and winey food-friendliness which many people actively like. This hearty d’Angludet should cellar for 10 – 15 years,  though acid is low.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Charmail   16 ½ +  ()
Haut-Medoc,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $32   [ cork;  Me 48%,  CS 30, CF 20,  PV 2,  planted at 7500 vines / ha,  typically cropped @ 50 hL/ha (2.6 t/ac);  cold soak 15 days,  cuvaison to 3 weeks in tank,  up to 12 months in barrels 35% new;  Parker:  ... blueberries, creme de cassis liqueur, smoke, barbecue spices, and vanillin ... fleshy, medium to full-bodied, and pure ... 88 – 90 ]
Ruby and velvet,  good.  Bouquet is fragrant and richly plummy,  and one responds very favourably to the first impressions.  Cassis and plum attributes seem beautifully balanced to oak,  which is not as charry as some.  Palate however immediately introduces a green streak into the fruit,  shortening the flavour,  and making the finish seem a bit stalky and short.  Actual berry richness is quite good,  and this may come into a happier equilibrium in 7 or so years.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 08/06

2003  Ch Potensac   16 ½ +  ()
Medoc Cru Bourgeois,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  CS 60%,  Me 25,  CF 15,  planted at 8000 vines / ha,  typically cropped @ 55 hL/ha (2.9 t/ac);  up to 18 days cuvaison in tank,  up to 16 months in French oak 10 – 15 % new;  same ownership as Ch Leoville-Lascases;  Parker: ... a sleeper of the vintage ... exotic scents of mincemeat, black currants, cherries are followed by an elegant, fleshy, forward, delicious claret ... one of the finest Potensacs recently.  89;  Robinson:  ... richness on the nose ... a slight note of herbaceousness ... Quite green tannins on the finish ... good freshness ... Marked acidity but not bad at all for the appellation.  16.5 ]
Ruby,  one of the lighter ones.  This is a pretty bouquet in a more classic,  less winemaker / artefacts style.  Red fruits and berries are dominant,  with oak more in the background.  Palate is crisp,  lightish but long,  a little stalky to the latter part.  Straightforward Medoc,  not performing as well as one might have hoped in the northern Medoc in 2003.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 08/06

2003  Vieux Chateau Certan   16 ½  ()
Pomerol,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $135   [ cork;  Me 80%,  CF 20,  in 2003,  average age 35 years,  planted to 5800 vines / ha;  hand-picked,  fruit hand-sorted twice;  cuvaison up to 21 days in oak or s/s vats;  18 months in 100% new barrels;  on wine style,  the proprietors say:  ‘Far from the increasing trend of wines that are constantly becoming richer and more powerful, Vieux Chateau Certan is the expression of elegance itself’;  Parker: ... a sumptuous perfume of burning embers, incense, cedar, roasted herbs, and sweet black cherries and currants. Neither big nor weighty, it is an elegant, medium-bodied, finesse-styled, velvety-textured 2003 … 93;  Robinson:  Some freshness on the nose (thanks to the unusually high proportion, 80%, of Cabernet Franc in the blend) … the Merlot component distinctly animal and overripe … the tannins are light and sandy … very soft and a bit too sweet for me.  Not one of VCC's finest vintages.  16.5;  www.vieuxchateaucertan.com ]
Older ruby,  scarcely velvet,  the lightest.  Bouquet is less ripe than expected,  with a clear leafy thread in red fruits,  really quite modest.  Palate shows fair berry,  subtle oak,  but also a clean stalkyness,  and the phenolics to go with it.  Classic green-tinged claret,  surprising in the year.  Presumably physiological / phenolic ripeness trailed along behind sugar-ripeness,  and the grapes were picked rather more on the latter criterion.  It will cellar well in its ’79 Figeac style,  5 – 15 years,  building bouquet.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch Gazin   16 +  ()
Pomerol,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $80   [ cork;  Me 90,  CS 7,  CF 3,  planted to 5750 vines / ha,  average vine age 35;  3 – 4 week cuvaison in tank;  MLF and batonnage in French oak 50 – 60% new for up to 18 months;  Parker:  ... plenty of black cherry and currant notes,  lavishly oaked … big,  muscular, a success ... 89;  Robinson:  ... herbaceous un-ripe notes on the nose … sweet start but very little tannin … a bit too soupy ... 15.5;  www.gazin.com ]
Ruby and some velvet,  some age showing.  Bouquet is complex,  with red and black fruits,  quality oak,  a stalky note,  and some brett complexity.  It all looks quite positive at the bouquet stage.  On palate,  however,  the stalky note expands,  to introduce an almost bitter green quality,  which fights with berry and raisiny flavours,  producing a clumsy whole.  Quite a few Coonawarra cabernet / merlots show this quality too,  there due to machine pruning and harvesting.  Quite a rich wine,  and clearly Bordeaux,  reasonably enjoyable,  but let down by the flavours of very mixed ripeness.  Cellar 5 – 20 years,  in its modest style.  GK 10/06

2003  Ch Lagrange   16 +  ()
St Julien Third Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $55   [ cork;  CS 65%,  Me 28,  PV 7,  average age 30 years,  planted @  7500 – 8500 vines / ha;  hand-sorting,  15 – 25 days cuvaison in s/s depending on season;  20 months in 60% new oak;  Parker: ... the full-bodied, fleshy, succulently styled 2003 Lagrange is more accessible than most Northern Medocs ... low acidity, silky tannin, and loads of chocolatey black currant and cherry fruit as well as nicely integrated, toasty oak … 91;  Robinson: ... very sweet - almost like a New World Cabernet - with the same green topnote. Very alcoholic and, just, out of balance. Not refreshing enough … charming,  but a bit skinny overall.  16;  www.chateau-lagrange.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the fresher colours,  though below midway in depth.  Initial bouquet is attractive,  with red berry and plum,  plus toasty oak in the modern style.  Palate however is strange,  distinctly green with unresolved malolactic flavours.  Another physiologically unripe wine,  despite the hot season,  not promising.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  if the style appeals.  GK 07/06

2003  Ch la Cabanne    14 ½  ()
Pomerol,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $44   [ cork;  Me 92%,  CF 8,  planted at 5000 vines / ha,  typically cropped at 48 hL/ha (2.5 t/ac);  cold soak and up to 4 weeks cuvaison and MLF in tank,  up to 18 months in split-stave French oak [said to be] up to 60% new;  Robinson: ... sweet and rich ... overdone and uncomfortably extracted on the palate ... dry rasping tannins on the finish.  15;  www.estager.com ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is in an older ‘brown’ style of Bordeaux,  with fruit and oak blurring into each other,  though reasonably fruity.  Palate immediately shows why,  with nearly skunky flavours indicative of very old cooperage,  though the berryfruit remains reasonable.  This is more shipper's claret,  and in an old-fashioned style.  Not worth cellaring,  if one is at all sensitive to this drab nearly microbiological skunky flavour,  for it doesn't dissipate with time.  [ Conceivably a corked bottle,  but the character is so characteristic of ancient cooperage,  that I doubt it. ]  GK 08/06