I opened a 2003 Montagne St Emilion. First I wanted to make sure it wasn't corked, so I smelled it - ok. Then I tasted it - not ok. Bland as water, and then the alcohol hit me but not much flavor. I decanted it and waited a couple of hours, and only then did I start tasting something very good, maybe past its prime, but very smooth with I suppose next to no tannins left. How was it that I first tasted nothing and that the decanting did the trick? Thank you.
Your experience speaks to the mystery of wine...just when we think we can explain every aspect, something unexpected arises! You probably already know that 2003 was a singular vintage in France. It was a very dry year, and summer was extremely hot, both day and night. There were 16 days with temperatures above 95 F in Bordeaux. The red wines tended to be deeply colored and full-bodied, with fairly low acidity levels. Your description of the Montagne-Saint-Émilion you opened is largely consistent with these general characteristics. The 2003s have been controversial from the start. Some have said they are completely atypical: heavy, rich and alcoholic. Most agree that they have evolved quickly in bottle, and even the very top wines are mature and stand to gain little from further aging. Again, that seems to align with your 2003. As to why it tasted "very good" after a couple of hours, that comes back to the mysterious behavior of wine when exposed to air - it's hard to know what exactly will happen!
About The Expert
Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey and China. Roger became one of America's first Masters of Wine in 1993.
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