Spotlight on . . . Montrose 2003

O ne of Parker’s consistently high scoring wines, Chateau Montrose’s profile was given a boost in 2014 when Parker tasted a 50-year vertical from the estate, as well as re-tasting wines from the 2003 Bordeaux vintage.

2003 certainly required some attention from Parker as it is best described as a mixed year, and very uneven. Many wines were made that were not built to last, and should have been consumed already. Among those that remain, there are highlights, but there is a lack of consistency. The best wines came from the Médoc, which includes the appellation of St Estephe, and that’s where we find Montrose. On re-tasting the 2003 Montrose in 2014, Parker re-scored it from 97+ to 99, and described it as ‘a candidate for a perfect score’. High praise indeed, from a vintage many producers would like to forget.

Many of us enjoy the challenge of seeking out wines from ‘lesser’ vintages – some of the most interesting wines come from vintages like this one, whose growing season was incredibly difficult. Hot weather led to vines suffering from drought. However, in St Estephe, which has clay soils capable of retaining important moisture, producers knew this was going to be a very special vintage for them. The wines of St Estephe tend to have a rich character, and the soils are known to offer a particular advantage in years that are too hot and dry for other parts of the Médoc. Although there are no first growths in the appellation, Montrose and Cos d’Estournel as second growths are the most prolific wines, and generally revered by critics.

The key to buying from the 2003 vintage is to be very selective, and choose carefully. The best wines, like Montrose, are simply extraordinary. Parker estimates this wine as drinking from now until 2034. He notes ‘a stunning perfume of blueberries, black currants, licorice and camphor’ and ‘melted tannins and a long, heady finish’. Neal Martin, Parker’s successor, tasting in June this year, remarked ‘…this is clearly a candidate for the wine of the vintage, equal to if not surpassing the First Growths’.

If you can resist drinking this extraordinary wine, and want to buy for investment, you will be looking at +16.6% growth in 3 years, and +25.2% growth over 5 years. It is ready to drink but Parker estimated it would continue to drink well for a couple of decades (in 2014), so you are in safe hands.

The lesson here is that you don’t need to wait for a legendary Bordeaux vintage whose wines will be super-expensive on release, in order to either make a good profit, or experience an extraordinary wine. A little research will go a long way, and by choosing carefully you will discover something even more special.