WineRoute or Derech Hayain (hebrew site) is arguably Israel's largest wine importer. Of premium wines certainly. They were the first to offer a wide selection of Bordeaux and Rhone wines, the first to sell Bordeaux futures and the first importer to establish their own chain of wine stores. I've been a customer for 4 years, attending 6-10 in-store tastings a year. Their big drawback recently has been a growing monopolistic power that has allowed them to be less consumer-minded pricewise and a leaning towards big, Parker wines (which admittedly they've been selling by the truckload). Though to be fair, they had let my disappintment simmer for a year or so before coming out with a very fair priced new catalog with a lot of wines that seem elegant and food friendly, judging by the reviews.
Each year in July/August, they hold an annual Bordeau tasting of wines from the newly released vintage. For some reason, this summer they held a tasting of wines from the last few vintages and have only gotten round to an actual tasting of the 2003 vintage this month.
2003 in Bordeaux
You're here, so you probably know all about it, right? Hot vintage, big hype, prices continuing to spiral upwards.
Despite what I said above about WineRoute pushing wines with high Parker scores, the tasting contained little obvious blockbusters. One obvious observation was the low acidity; a more surprising one was a certain lack of body. Also, the wines were very fairly priced (I'm referring to off the shelf prices, before figuring in the tasting discounts).
Smith Haut Lafite Blanc, Pessac-Leognan
A high quality nose: ripe white fruit, toast, nuts, some sulphur. The palate is where it falls apart due to a lack of acidity and feels harsh. The nose in itself is a 92 but it's too bad the palate is in the mid 80's.
The nose is old-fashioned and earthy with a huge blast horse sweat over red fruit. The attack is tempered after time in glass. Tannic and rustic and the low acidity is passable. I like it more than the score suggests. 87-88.
L'Arrivet Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan
A minerally nose with sweet black fruit. It's a touch brett-y, but it really leans more towards eastern spices. On the palate I find jammy fruit, an unyiedling tannic, minerally finish and a certain hollowness in mid-palate. More finesse than the Cantemerle but somwhat less interesting. 87-88.
Clos Du Marquis, St. Julien
The 2nd wine of Leoville Las Cases, of course, and one of the night's disappointments. Huge ripe and perfumed fruit on the nose, liquor-ish and jammy accents; then you feel the presence of the oak and the fruit receedes. Very modern, again lacks some body in mid-palate, with a tannic finish of decent length but no great interest. I can't really tell whether the lack of excitement is due to its youth. 86-87.
Les Ormes-De-Pez, St. Estephe
A leap in quality. A very elegant nose and good balance and acidity on the palate, fine tannins. Good concentration of black fruit with faint traces of brett. 90.
A complex nose highlighting notes of minerals and espresso. Doesn't over-do the ripeness thing. Very savoury and appealing with fresh acidity. 91.
La Conseillante, Pomerol
Ripe and perfumed fruit of every color, mostly blue though, with flowers and meat in the background. Very concentrated, almost a block-buster, but comes away with a lot of elegance and balance. Elegant tannins. Really a delight and how I wish I could afford it. 93+.
Closed shut. The nose shows some candied fruit and flowers and might turn out to be on the jammy side. A long harsh finish. 92-93.
Lynch Bages, Pauillac
A very open and inviting nose with tons of espresso that is more than matched by the fruit. Complex and elegant. Still closed on the palate where the soft tannins worried me about its potential. 91-92
The neighbor on my right was surprised I picked the Grand-Puy-Lacoste over the Lynch Bages. While the Lynch bages is a very sexy wine whose appeal can't be ignored, I felt the Grand-Puy-Lacoste was holding something back and might be the more interesting wine in a few years, despites my concerns about possible jamminess.
I know 2003 is supposed to be an excellent Sauternes vintage, yet this is the second time I've noticed that botrytis or no botrytis, the sweet wines of Bordeaux can be as low in acidity as the red wines. A terrific, concentrated nose with hints of spices. The palate is almost syrupy, with enough acidity to offset the sugar but not very much left after that. A bit of a disappointment because of that low level of acidity but an excellent wine otherwise. 93.