Château Le Boscq 2003

I am not ashamed to admit that I bought this wine because of chicken
Posted 31st October 2011        

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I am not ashamed to admit that I bought this wine because of chicken nuggets.

We had run out a few Sundays ago so the wife packed me off to buy some and I couldn’t face going to one of the local big supermarkets for just one thing. I ended up in my local Co-op and remembered that the last time I was in there – around a year ago – they had a pretty decent selection of wines at reasonable prices. I had a quick look and this wine immediately caught my eye as I had read about it while in France on holiday some weeks before. Not only that it seemed to be very reasonably priced at £15.99 a bottle so it was definitely worth buying a couple to sample.

Apart from that, there are four main reasons I bought this wine, all immediately obvious from the label. The first is that it is from St. Estephe, my favourite appellation in the Medoc. The second is because it is a Cru Bourgeois Superieur so a step up in quality from Cru Bourgeois. The third is that Chateau Le Boscq is part of the Vignobles Dourthe empire, a company renowned for producing good quality but affordably priced wines from a range of estates and regions in France and Argentina. Fourth, it’s a 2003 vintage which along with 2005, 2000, 1995-6, 1990, 1986 and 1982 has been one of the better vintages in the last three decades or so.

St. Estephe is in the far north of  the Haut-Medoc and is the northern-most of the Medoc commune appellations, the other being Pauillac, St.Julien and Margaux. The land is more open there and there are fewer trees while the vineyards lie on heavier clay-based soils compared to those further south. Only red grapes are planted so it is entirely red wine country.

Generalisations can be dangerous but the wines of this region are traditionally known for their hardness – mostly because of the soil – and are considered to possess less expressive and flattering bouquets, have a tougher character and to be more stern and tannic than their southern cousins. They are usually full-bodied and take longer to mature than most other wines from the region, but have considerable ageing potential as a result – as long as 35-40 years. In an attempt to soften and round out these tough characteristics, more Merlot is planted here than in any other Medoc appellation and is used by as much as 50% in some blends along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to a lesser extent.

Château Le Boscq is set atop a gravel hill overlooking the Gironde Estuary and has been tenant farmed by Dourthe since 1995. Over half of the grapes grown here are Merlot with a quarter Cabernet Sauvignon while the rest consists of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Michel Rolland is the consultant oneologist so meticulous techniques are used in the vineyard and in the cellar. All grapes are harvested by hand and in the cellar they are sorted twice – before de-stemming and after – and no pumps are used to transfer the juice. Vinification takes place according to separate batches in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with low capacity and the wine is matured in oak barrels for 12-18 months.

Robert Parker gives this wine 87 points but I think it deserves more than that, (even though this is the highest rating he gives this wine from any vintage in the last decade or so). The wine is a deep ruby and purple colour in the glass indicating its solidly made style. On the nose it is incredibly fragrant with a hint of bramble, blackcurrant, liquorice and leather. The wine is velvety smooth and well-rounded on the palate with plenty of fruit and structure and very soft tannins but enough acidity and structure to give it serious backbone. It is one of the most full-bodied wines from the Medoc I have tasted – almost New World in style with the unmistakable earth and mineral undertones of a claret. If you are often left feeling underwhelmed by wines form this part of the world I can highly recommend it.

Good food matches include venison, beef, roast lamb and coq au vin. It also goes very well with mature, semi-soft cheese but is equally good to drink on its own with convivial company.

I give this wine 92.5/100.

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Meet the Author:
Donald Griffiths
Donald lives in Tadworth, Surrey and is originally from Durban in South Africa. He developed an appreciation for wine at a relatively young age mainly in thanks to his francophile mother who served it (just one glass mind!) with food around the dining table and taught him to appreciate, enjoy and acknowledge its ability to complement and even enhance good food. This appreciation grew stronger in his early twenties when he met like-minded buyers and drinkers of wine while working behind a bar as a student and also realised that a good bottle of cabernet sauvignon was a better pairing with barbecued red meat than any beer could ever be. Now all he pretty much drinks is wine – of all colours and styles – and enjoys collecting wines he likes to drink. Favourites include (but are not restricted to!) New World Pinot Noirs, most red Rhone varietals, the deeply dark and tannic wines from South-West France, big, creamy, oaked and over-the-top Chardonnays and the sweet white wines of Monbazillac and Sauternes. Donald prides himself on a relatively in-depth knowledge of the South African wine industry. He has visited many of the top wine estates in the Cape and will gladly try and convert the most sceptic, ignorant and staunchest critics of SA wine. If he won the lottery Donald freely admits he would buy a wine estate somewhere in the world and grow old in no great rush while getting his feet wet with grape juice.