Bordeaux, Bottle Notes

Pick My Next Bottle – 2003 Bordeaux

The May Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 2003 Bordeaux. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published shortly thereafter.

We all know the background on the historically hot 2003 vintage. The wines are incredibly polarizing – some find them undrinkable. From my experience, the top wines of the vintage are fruit forward and absolutely fun to drink. This installment of Pick My Next Bottle intends to check in on how some of the better wines of the vintage are aging.

The Contenders:

    • 2003 Pichon Baron – This is a brilliantly run property year in and year out, and especially since the mid- to late 1980s has produced one of the top four or five wines made in Pauillac in virtually every vintage. With 13.4% alcohol, the 2003 is one of the most powerful efforts this chateau has ever made. Its dense purple color is accompanied by sweet, jammy creme de cassis notes intermixed with roasted herbs, smoked meats, and chocolate. Although ripe, dense, full-bodied, and moderately tannic, it is silky (because of its low acidity and high glycerin) as well as accessible. It should firm up in the bottle, and be at its peak between 2008-2025. 94 points from the Wine Advocate
    • 2003 Sociando-Mallet – Sociando-Mallet is the poster child for what cru bourgeois estates can achieve. This is a wine that is consistently of classified-growth quality and also one of the longest lived wines made in the Medoc. An exceptional vintage for Sociando-Mallet, 2003 has produced a spectacularly concentrated, inky blue/purple-colored wine with an extraordinary nose of blackberries, raspberries, some white flowers, and a hint of lead pencil shavings. The wine is powerful, extremely full-bodied, quite tannic, and seriously endowed. This is stunning wine that is rich, layered, and in need of 5-6 years of bottle-age. It should keep for 30+ years. It is certainly a riveting effort for the vintage and, as I wrote last year, probably a modern-day version of a hypothetical blend of a 1970 and a 1982. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
    • 2003 Pontet Canet – One cannot say enough about the labors of proprietor Alfred Tesseron, who has personally overseen the dramatic increase in quality of the wines at Pontet-Canet which started in a significant manner with 1994. This is a classic Pauillac-styled wine (meaning oodles of cassis flavors), as one might expect from a vineyard on the plateau of Pauillac, across the street from Mouton-Rothschild. One of the great successes of the vintage and certainly one of the most profound Pontet-Canets made over the last decade is the 2003. Deep purple to the rim with a glorious nose of scorched earth, black currant jam, smoke, licorice, and roasted meats, it is full-bodied, incredibly powerful, dense, with low acidity but high tannin, broad-shouldered, and savory. This is a stunning, pure, classic Pontet-Canet that should be at its best between 2010 and 2035. 95 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 2003 Bordeaux should I open?

  • 2003 Sociando-Mallet (38%, 17 Votes)
  • 2003 Pontet Canet (36%, 16 Votes)
  • 2003 Pichon Baron (27%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 44

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the June installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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11 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle – 2003 Bordeaux

  1. The usual selfish reason: I’ve had the Pontet Canet but not the Baron, want to see how it’s drinking:)) enjoy!

  2. Beautiful lineup of Bordeaux from a super-hot vintage! As you know, the 2003s are drinking much earlier than other Bordeaux vintages in the 2001-2010 decade because 03 was such a hot vintage. In general, Sociando-Mallet is going to be drinkable earlier than Pichon Baron and Pontet-Canet because of the way it’s made, regardless the vintage. Thus, my pick for Pick My Next Bottle is the 03 Sociando-Mallet. That’s not to say Pichon-Baron and Pontet-Canet are not drinkable now. They’re probably right at the point where the window of drinkability is now open. However, for my taste, I’d wait another year before approaching Pontet-Canet and at least three years before approaching Pichon Baron, unless you like your Bordeaux young. Regardless which wine wins out, it’s be an enjoyable tasting experience, I’m sure! Enjoy!

    1. Thanks Peter. I totally agree with your takes on the wines in general but RMP sure makes this Sociando-Mallet make it sound like it is a long term hold.

      1. I read the same Parker comment on the 03 Sociando-Mallet. I have some of this one myself and am holding off drinking at least for a couple more years based on Parker’s view that it’s a long-term hold. But, I think Pichon Baron and Pontet-Canet are wines that need even more time than the Sociando. I’ve found that in the past I’ve opened several Bordeaux around the 10 year point and they’ve been closed. So, I’m leaning toward opening Bordeaux, on average, around the 12-13 year point. I’ll probably try a bottle of the 03 Sociando-Mallet next year or in 2016 (I haven’t opened one yet, so it’ll be a new experience).

      2. All three 2003 Bordeaux candidates will probably need some serious decanting time regardless which wine you ultimately open. The 03 Sociando-Mallet is the most approachable of the three choices, at least in my mind. That’s not to say it won’t be very young and perhaps a bit closed upon opening.

          1. I think the 2003 Bordeaux vintage is the exception to the general rule about Bordeaux in that they will be earlier drinking, on average. That’s not to say that there won’t be some exceptions to the general rule. So, e.g., I’ve read that 03 Pichon Lalande and 03 La Mission Haut-Brion are evolving quicker than expected for their classed growth levels but that Sociando-Mallet is a long-term ager. How does this translated into years storage? In my mind, this might mean that whereas Lalande and La Mission might usually need 20 years aging, 12-15 years aging might do for the 2003 vintage. And, whereas Sociando might usually need only 10 years aging, 12 or 13 years aging might be required for the 2003 vintage. Some of these aging calls are tough to make, to be sure. Just some thoughts. :)

  3. This was a tough call. While the 2003 Sociando-Mallet description sounds incredible, I know those were bottle notes when released. I have enjoyed several Pontet Canet’s over the years & I am a fan of Alfred Tesseron & what he has done in BDX.
    My vote was for Pichon Baron because It is one of my favorite Chateau’s & wines in BDX & I have several bottles on their side!
    Enjoy Tom!

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