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Red Bordeaux - 2003 - Lafite Rothschild

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Tasting Notes

The 2003 Lafite Rothschild comes as close to perfection as any of the great Lafites made over the past three decades (1982, 1986, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010). This sensational effort came in at 12.7% natural alcohol, it is made in the style of one of this estate's great classics, the 1959. Composed of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it exhibits a dense ruby/purple color to the rim along with a luxurious bouquet of cedarwood, lead pencil shaving, white chocolate, cocoa and cassis. Fat, rich, opulent and full-bodied with low acidity and stunning seductiveness and complexity, this noble wine possesses a bountiful, generous, heady style. It is just coming into its plateau of maturity where it should hold for 20-25 years. This is one of the candidates for the wine of the vintage - make no mistake about that. Drink: 2014 - 2039

Score: 100 Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (214), August 2014

A modern day version of the 1959 Lafite, the 2003 Lafite Rothschild was bottled in mid-May, 2005 after achieving 12.9% natural alcohol – hardly an astonishing figure given the vintage’s weather conditions. A combination of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot, it represents a ripe version of the essence of Lafite-Rothschild. Dense purple-colored, with classic notes of graphite intertwined with melted licorice, creme de cassis, smoke, and flowers, it reveals extraordinary richness, opulence, power, purity, intensity, and viscosity. Whether this wine will close down or not is questionable as it is somewhat atypical given its sweetness and softness. Analytically, there are extremely high tannins, which I suspect will assert themselves in the future. Production in 2003 was less than half of normal. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2050.

Score: 100 Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (164), April 2006

One of the vintage’s most prodigious wines, the 2003 may be a modern day clone of the1959 Lafite Rothschild. Unusually opulent and viscous, with a dense purple color and an amazingly complex nose of scorched earth, Asian soy, balsamic vinegar, black currants, plums, and even some figs, Lafite tips the scales at 12.75% alcohol (less than they expected). The final blend is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. A wine of great intensity, tremendous viscosity and density with low acidity (the pH is pushing 4), and a magnificent finish, but all with great precision, purity, and freshness, this is a tour de force in winemaking and something that simply has to be tasted to be believed. I have never had another Lafite Rothschild anything like it, and those who would argue that the 1982 or 1959 are cut from the same mold may have some supportive evidence. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2050+.

Score: 96/100 Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (158), April 2005

Revealing enormous richness, flesh, and succulence, the 2003 Lafite Rothschild is one of the candidates for “wine of the vintage.” A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot (the Merlot was harvested between September 8 - 12, and the Cabernet Sauvignon between September 15 - 24), it possesses ethereal richness as well as perfume. Yields were a low 34 hectoliters per hectare, there is just under 13% natural alcohol, and the pH level is frightfully high at 3.9 with a total acidity of only 2.9. These figures are nearly identical to such ripe, concentrated vintages as 1982 and 1959. Inky/ruby/purple-colored with a spectacular, ripe perfume of black fruits, cedar, Asian soy, and balsamic vinegar, it exhibits massive richness yet is remarkably fresh and lively on the palate for such an unctuous effort (amazing levels of glycerin). In that sense, it is atypical, but like the 1982, I suspect the 2003 will become more delineated as the tannin emerges over the next 1-2 years. An amazing textural impression left me scratching my head as I have never tasted a Lafite Rothschild quite like this. This is one first-growth worth mortgaging the house for! Anticipated maturity: 2010-2035.

Score: 98/100 Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (152), April 2004

Subtle, complex aromas of berrry, licorice and currant. Full-bodied and very well intergrated. Wonderful length and finesse.

Score: 96 James Suckling, Wine Spectator, February 2006

Exciting, yet polished and refined. This is a rich and structured Lafite. Very classic style.

Score: 95/100 James Suckling, Wine Spectator (April 04), April 2004

Deep lively purplish crimson. This is a very exciting wine which manages to be primarily a fine Lafite and only then an expression of the extreme ripeness of the vintage. There is no exaggeration here and most of all the dancing finesse of lafite on song. Deep and concentrated - and still introvert but it opened out to great delicacy. Pure Lafite with extra ripeness of 2003 and a little spike of leafiness on the edge to keep it lively. Round and opulent on the mid palate but never heavy. Sweeter than usual but there is sufficient acidity and a nice dry kick of dryness to keep it all in check and beautifully airbourne.

Score: 18.5+ Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com (April 04), April 2004

Deep crimson. Very rich indeed. Super opulent. Lots of alcohol and sweetness. A little California! But dry on the end. It does finish a little suddenly. Very obviously sweet. (Average group score: 18.1)

Score: 17 Jane MacQuitty, JancisRobinson.com, October 2010

Lovely gently spicy toasty oak but then all sorts of lovely complexity of dark fruit and savoury notes - at the end just a hint of raisiny ripeness. So so silky. tissue paper tannins, cool fresh length. Well formed and well dressed. Subtle and understated. Very long. Drink 2008-2028.Date tasted 23rd Jan 08

Score: 18+ Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com, January 2008

Score: 18.5/19 Michael Schuster, The World of Fine Wine (1), April 2004