Last night a customer ordered a bottle of 2005 Vacqueyras, but when the server got to the rack, all we had was 2003. The distributor sent us 2003 when we ordered 2005 and we didn't catch it when it was delivered. Sometimes things are that crazy on Thursday mornings, with six drivers trying to deliver at once.
Back to the story: the customer decided to try the 2003 wine and wasn't happy with it. She was too polite to just send it back out of hand. Instead she sent word to the kitchen for me to come have a taste. And I did. And the wine was shot.
2003 was famous for being the hottest vintage in Southern Europe that most of us can remember. It resulted in very ripe, highly colored, fruity, alcoholic wines with minimal acidity (in those wines that were not acidified by the winemaker). We bought some 2003 wines out of necessity: we don't have enough storage space to stock up on a wine so that we can skip a less desirable vintage such as 2003. However, I do recall not buying any Loires in that vintage: they were terrible from the start.
For the first couple of years the 2003 Rhônes were OK, if atypical. Many customers enjoyed the big fruity, bright purple, alcoholic wines. The last time I tasted this wine, it was still OK, but starting to fade, and this was a couple of years ago.
On tasting the Vacqueyras last night, I found all the fruit to be cooked. The bright fruit had gone over to prunes and raisins, flavors that you would find in a port (or an overripe California Zin). The body was flabby; there was no acid to wake up the palate. And the color had muddied. All signs of a wine on the way out, or in this case, over the hill.
So this is a reminder to those of you with any 2003 European wines: time to drink up.