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2003 in the Rhône


As most readers will know, 2003 was a weirdly warm vintage in most of Europe. It was so hot that many vines underwent a process known as ‘blockage’ (in France, at least). This is the paradoxical phenomenon where excess heat, rather than promote development, actually retards it. The vine realizes that to carry on photosynthesizing, for which it needs gas exchange through pores in the leaves known as stomata, would be dangerous – net water vapour loss would offset the benefit of continued growth. So it shuts up shop to conserve water. If this is a frequent occurrence during the growing season, maturity is held off. Then, towards the end of the growing season, harvest takes place with high sugar ripeness but rather unripe tannins.

The result in 2003 is that many regions produced atypical wines, frequently with lots of sweet fruit, yet rather astringent tannins. The wines can seem rather awkward. It’s not just a question of ‘big’ wines that need time in the cellar, but rather a problem of structural elements that will never mesh or resolve. That’s my prediction, anyway, and I think it’s worth exercising caution before splurging on European wines from the 2003 vintage.

So how did the Rhône do? Here I tried a relatively small sampling of Rhône reds from 2003. The results? A little mixed. Some very good wines, but no really great ones. Best results were in the northern Rhône, with the south disappointing somewhat. Tasting was at Montrachet wines (tel 020 7928 1990) whose prices per case of 12 including VAT are shown.


Domaine Fayolle Crozes Hermitage Les Voussères 2003
Perfumed, pure open red fruits nose – raspberry with a touch of blackcurrant. The palate is quite structured with good acidity. Pleasant. Very good+ 88/100 (£117)

Domaine Fayolle Crozes Hermitage Les Pontaix 2003
Some structure evident on the perfumed fruit-dominated nose. The palate shows some wood influence and a bit of heat; finishes dry and structured. Very good+ 86/100 (£123)

Domaine des Entrefaux Crozes Hermitage 2003
Vivid colour. Lovely intense liqueur-like nose is inky and dense showing sweet raspberry and blackcurrant fruit. The palate is structured, firm and tannic under the pure fruit. Dry, firm finish. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£123)

Domaine Yann Chave Crozes Hermitage 2003
Beautifully perfumed nose with classic northern Rhône stink: slightly meaty, violet-like Syrah fruit. The palate is full and open with lovely supple fruit. Olivey finish. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£132)

Domaine des Amphores St Joseph 2003
Appealing tight, smoky, spicy, savoury nose of red fruits. The palate is open and rich with supple red fruits and some tannic structure. Quite savoury. A nice wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£132)

Domaine Coursodon St Joseph 2003
Smoky, meaty nose with warm dark fruits. Some depth and richness. The palate is chunky, rich and spicy with good smooth structure. A nicely balanced wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£180)

Domaine Coursodon St Joseph L’Olivaie 2003
Some freshness to the nose, which shows dark fruits and a spicy depth. The palate is concentrated and dense with warm spicy dark fruits and mouth coating tannins. A deep wine. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£237)

Alain Voge Cornas Les Chailles 2003
Smooth, dark, spicy nose with some smoky notes. Quite refined. The palate is structured and full with forward fruit and also some firm, dense structure. Needs time. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£237)

Michel Ogier La Rosine Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes 2003
Lovely open olive-like spicy nose, with smooth ripe fruit. Dense, chewy and spicy palate is quite structured with good acid. Nice typicity here. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£141)

Michel Ogier Côte Rôtie 2003
Beautifully perfumed nose is spicy and supple, displaying dark fruits with a meaty, olive-like complexion. The palate is mid-weight and quite structured – chunky, spicy and lively, with a bit of stink. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£336)

Patrice and Christophe Bonnefond Côte Rôtie 2003
Distinctive roasted, chocolatey dark fruits nose. The palate is spicy and structured with great fruit intensity and some obvious new oak. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£336)


Domaine Traslepuy Côtes du Rhône 2003
Nice spicy tannic structure underneath some ripe fruit. Quite fresh with a dusty dry finish. Very good+ 86/100 (£81)

Domaine Traslepuy Lirac 2003
Lots of fruit and presence on the firm, savoury nose . The palate is concentrated and dense with lots of tannic structure. Firm, mouth drying tannins and good acidity. Dusty finish. Very good+ 88/100 (£96)

Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Vacqueyras 2003
Quite a perfumed yet savoury fruity nose. Lovely rounded peppery, spicy fruit on the palate but a drying tannic finish. Very good+ 87/100 (£123)

Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Gigondas 2003
Perfumed open red fruits nose – quite ripe. Structured, dry, savoury tannic palate with spicy fruit. Very good+ 88/100 (£144)

Domaine La Bouissière Les Amis de la Bouissière 2004
A 2004 sneaked in showed that this is probably a much more successful vintage in this region. An inky dark colour, this wine has a forward, intense dark fruits nose. Lovely concentrated, supple ripe fruits dominate the palate. Nice pure fruit in a savoury style. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£93)

Domaine La Bouissière Vacqueyras Vieilles Vignes 2003
Open, slightly evolved caramel-edged nose. Spicy, structured palate with caramel and red fruits. Nice weight but a bit evolved. Very good+ 86/100 (£129)

Domaine La Bouissière Gigondas 2003
Nicely focused nose of spicy red fruits. The palate is chunky, spicy and full with structured red fruits. Supple and quite big. Very good+ 89/100 (£156)

Domaine La Bouissière Gigondas Le Font de Tonin 2003
Perfumed, slightly roasted toasty edge to the ripe fruits nose. Chewy, spicy, chunky palate of great density. Modern but nice. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£210)

Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf du Pape 2003
Didn’t like this too much. No further note!

see also: the Rhône

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