Laughing Jack shiraz 2003

86 points

Barossa Valley, 14.5%

Dark with crimson flashes. Young, no sign of age, but with some rather classic shiraz aromas – the sort that usually take some years to develop. Quite fresh with not quite integrated (added) acidity. Bold, very primary, simple flavour.

This wine does nothing to shake my predjudice against the hot 2003 vintage. Well made, like this, it can deliver wines that are quite impressive dark and concentrated if lacking complexity, but I don’t see these making old, or interesting, wines.

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Larmandier-Bernier blanc de blanc

91 points

Champagne, France. 12%

It’s been sometime since having a blanc de blanc that impressed me. This is lovely, and very much a blanc de blanc. Fresh, lively, plenty of bubbles and very adequate acidity. Gorgeous touch of dry, not sweet, peach skin flavour.

Leeuwin Estate ‘art series’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (review)

88 points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 14%

I’ve always thought of Leeuwin Estate as one of Australia’s more bordeaux-like cabernet producers, as the wines are deep, not exotic/cosmetic, physiologically very ripe, and quite savoury. However over the past five years they have crept up in alcohol. Really they are stylistically closer to a top Californian producer, especially in this firm ripe vintage.

Fine wine, but I would have hoped for a bit more energy and acid. It’s big solid, a touch porty though without any sweetness or alcohol burn.

Chateau Haut Bages Liberal 2002

90 points

Pauillac, Bordeaux. 12.5%

This is very classic yet modern. The wine’s purity and freshness are features of the very best wines from this vintage.

Aromas that are dark and yet warm with oak, but oak without any cosmetic sweetness. Medium to full weight. Tight Pauillac currant flavours but with a warm and slightly smokey oak wrapping. This really is very good, and so very good value due to the low prices of the 2002 vintage. This chateau has become one of the bargains of Bordeaux which is very odd for a Pauillac, especially one next door to Latour.

I really wish I’d bought more to cellar. The wine is still very young, and I suspect will age rather slowly. Buy it if you can.

Fortnum & Mason St. Julien Chateau Branaire-Ducru 2003

87+ points

Saint Julien, Bordeaux, France. 13%

The unusually hot 2003 vintage has produced some unusual claret. This is surprisingly approachable with low acidity and soft tannins for a Bordeaux of its youth. Yet it isn’t a new world style, its savoury and tannic still, with no overt alcohol heat or sweetness. Aromas of raisin (yet not sweet). Deep black fruits in a 4-square style more like St. Estephe than St. Julien. Will this ever be charming ? I doubt it. Will it age ? It might.

2003 is still a gamble I think, but the wines may be approachable, and offer big concentrated wines that can be enjoyed while waiting for other vintages to mature.