2003 - Hot and undervalued?

With extinguished enthusiasm for the 2013 en primeur campaign, it is useful to explore opportunities in the back-vintages of Bordeaux. Read through the tasting notes for Lafite 2003 and two legendary historic vintages are constantly mentioned: 1982 and 1959, which were both characterised by hot summer growing conditions giving rich tannins, albeit low acidity - not unlike 2003. The top 2003 performers were generally from the northern half of the left bank; however some right bank performers did well, such as Ausone’s 100-point wine:

Sources: Liv-ex, Wine Advocate
Sources: Liv-ex, Wine Advocate

If one aspired to purchase a high-scoring Ausone, then the 2003 appears to be a good place to start, the current Liv-ex mid-price just under SFr 950 per bottle giving a case price around SFr 11,250. This is indeed the cheapest of any Ausone scoring 98 points or more and certainly stands to make a positive correction versus the 2000 and 2005.


However the picture changes when prices are looked at more dynamically and, while this price is considerably up on the original release price (+124%), it has lost nearly 38% in the last three years. It still outperforms the 2000 and 2005, which have lost 44% and 46% respectively over the same period, and the lesser vintages have performed significantly better as we noted in March. With nominal prices back to levels last seen in 2006, vintage 2003 is one to acquire when there is a positive change in market sentiment for Bordeaux.


The under-valuation of 2003 also applies over on the left bank, with first growths showing this relative value for 2003. Margaux, as below, also presents relative value in the 1996:

Sources: Liv-ex, Wine Advocate
Sources: Liv-ex, Wine Advocate

First growths Lafite and Latour both have a mid-price for the 100-point 2003 of SFr 9,475, and they both show this relative value versus vintages 2000 and 2009, and additionally Lafite shows potential against the 100-point 1996 which has a mid-price breaching the SFr 11,200 level. Admittedly, this story may be mainly a first-growth play and less applicable to second-tier wines which already show an appropriate premium for this vintage.


One exception is Calon Sègur, where both 2003 and 2009 are trading just under SFr 900, versus the lower scoring 2000 and 1996 that trade around SFr 1,050. The 2003 is one of the few wines mentioned that has had consistently positive returns during the last five years (+42%) and one may expect it to continue rising for the next few years.


1959 was a sleeper vintage, with the quality of many wines only truly unveiled twenty years later, whereas 2003 has been picked up on by the critics as having good, if slightly unusual, ageing potential - despite low-ish acidity. A positive price adjustment may be on the cards once confidence returns the top end of Bordeaux.

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