The magic of Château Talbot 2003

The magic of Château Talbot 2003

25th Jan 2011

By Philip Lawrence, guest contributor.

Thewineremedy’s founder James used to say that his friends cooking was like Mrs Jones’ Christmas cake - you never knew what you were going to get. In the first of a series of guest articles, Philip Lawrence relates his similar experiences with Château Talbot 2003, the most difficult of recent Bordeaux Vintages:

As an avid enthusiast for Bordeaux wines, especially claret, I was very keen to read the excellent overview of the whole Bordeaux scene published by Oz Clarke in 2007. And I was not disappointed, as Clarke’s book is a wonderfully refreshing look at this famous old region. While browsing the section on St Julien I found some comments in the tomb on the 2003 vintage at Château Talbot. Mr Clarke describes the wine as wonderful, ‘the best Talbot in a generation’.

Partly as a result of this eulogy I perhaps rashly invested in 8 cases of the said nectar and family and friends have been imbibing for about a year now. The 2003 Talbot is extraordinary; extraordinarily inconsistent. Having dipped into 4 different half cases what is remarkable is the sheer range of quality on offer. Some of the wine has been delightful; strong flavours of blackcurrant and cassis and all the cedar and cheddar you could wish for in claret, with a firm but not forbidding structure and enduring finish. But some bottles have been poor with little to recommend them. In these cases fruit is much attenuated and the wine already seems tired.

I mention this not to have a dig at Oz Clarke, whose work is really first class and neither am I aiming at Château Talbot. What the purchase of this parcel has revealed to me is just how inconsistent claret can be. Perhaps with the 2003 the intensity of the summer heat made quality control impossible. In the wine I have tasted some of the grapes must have been severely over-ripened, while other batches were perfect. But the difference in the same wine from the same vintage is quite remarkable. In recent times no lesser an authority than Hugh Johnson has suggested that climate is increasingly irrelevant to vintage quality. In other words that technology and wine making skill can now overcome virtually all the vicissitudes of the weather. On the basis of my experience with Talbot 2003 I would disagree. Although it has to be said that the experience of the very good bottles has outweighed that of the less good. Long may Talbot, and indeed Mr Clarke, continue with their respective activities. 

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