La Mission Haut Brion 2003


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Tasting Notes

The 2003 La Mission Haut-Brion shows more creme de cassis, plenty of cedar wood, melted licorice and charcoal in a medium to full-bodied wine. It is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc. Rustic tannins in the back knock down the ultimate pleasure, and the point score, ever so slightly, but there's no doubting the complex, perfumey, noble aromatics this wine has managed to attain despite the staggering heat and drought in June, July and August. This has reached full maturity, but should hold nicely for another 7-10 years.

Here's a case where the second wine comes very close in quality to its bigger sibling, possibly because it is showing great complexity and is even more evolved than the Mission Haut-Brion. 2003 was tough in the Pessac-Leognan because of the lighter soils and the enormous heat and drought. Hence, the harvest here started in mid-August, which was historic. Drink 2014-2024

Score: 93Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (214), August 2014

The top wines of this vintage tend to be from St.-Emilion's limestone hillsides and the corridor between St.-Julien and St.-Estephe, but the 2003 La Mission-Haut-Brion is a very successful effort from the south. Roasted herb, scorched earth, sweet black currant and tar-like aromas jump from the glass of this evolved, mature effort. While copious tannins are still present, the acid is low and the wine is loosely structured, complex, seductive, fleshy and full. It seems to be aging quickly, so owners are well-advised to check a bottle or two as it appears to be close to full maturity. The 2003 is unlikely to last as long as more classic vintages.

Score: 93Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (202), August 2012

The 2003 La Mission Haut-Brion is a large-scaled wine offering a distinctive bouquet of scorched earth, black cherry liqueur, and hints of blackberries, blueberries, graphite, and smoke. Ripe, heady, full-bodied, soft, and revealing considerable complexity, low acidity, and a broad, expansive mouthfeel, it should drink well in 2-3 years and last for two decades. Its 13% plus alcohol is normal for this hot year.

Score: 94Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (164), April 2006

A blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, and the rest Cabernet Franc, this 5,000 case cuvee tips the scales at a relatively lofty 13.25% alcohol. Gravelly, smoky, scorched earth, and sweet berry fruit (black currants and blueberries) characteristics as well as surprisingly delicate nuances are followed by a layered, medium to full-bodied wine with sweet fruit, low acidity, fine power, and a luscious texture (the pH is a high 3.9). Anticipated maturity: 2007-2018.

Score: 91/93Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (158), April 2005

Like its renowned sibling, Haut-Brion, the 2003 La Mission Haut-Brion tips the scales at 13.25% alcohol, and 60% of the crop was used in the final blend. Although firm, powerful, and closed, with a dense purple color, high tannin, and a tight personality with some austerity to shed, there is plenty of size and depth to this 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc blend. There is nothing about this 2003 that reminds me of either the 1989 or 1990. In fact, it comes across like a more obviously tannic vintage such as 1995, and seems completely dominated at this stage of its evolution by its first growth brethren, Haut-Brion. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2025

Score: 90/92Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (152), April 2004

Aromas of blackberry, tobacco and hints of oak. Full-bodied, with lots of silky and round tannins and a long finish. Lots going on here. Layered and powerful. Best after 2010.

Score: 94James Suckling,, March 2006

Score: 95/100James Suckling, Wine Spectator (April 04), April 2004

Fantastic aromas of violets, berries and currants with hints of wood. Full-bodied, with super-refined tannins and a lovely silky finish. Very refined yet powerful and structured. It builds and builds.

 James Suckling, Wine Spectator

Extremely heady and almost bretty. So rich! The richness counterbalances any dry tannins. Very ambitious and starry indeed. Long. Cocoa. Dry end. Youthful. (Average group score: 17.5)

Score: 17.5Jancis Robinson MW,, October 2010

Impressively dark for a 2003 with colour right out to the rim. Nothing like the intensity of, say, the 2005 on the nose. Lightly dusty/tarry, certainly La Mission, but without real concentration on the mid palate. Mild and gentle compared with many 2003s - no excess of aggressive dry tannins on the finish. Fades rather fast but there is some freshness. Such a contrast to 2005 with its massive dose of everything! Drink 2008-2017. Date tasted 23 June 08.

Score: 17Jancis Robinson MW,, June 2008

Lovely texture with great minerality. Bigger, bolder than the Haut Brion.

Score: 17.5Jancis Robinson MW, (April 04), April 2004

2003 La Mission Haut Brion placed sixth overall, out of 100 wines tasted blind, at the 2003 Farr Vintners Blind Tasting held in October 2010. For more information, please visit

Score: 17.5Farr Vintners, Farr Vintners 2003 Blind Tasting, October 2010

Score: 15.5+Farr Vintners, Southwold Bordeaux Tasting, January 2007

Score: 17+Michael Schuster, The World of Fine Wine (1), April 2004

Please note that these tasting notes/scores are not intended to be exhaustive and in some cases they may not be the most recently published figures. However, we always do our best to add latest scores and reviews when these come to our attention. We advise customers who wish to purchase wines based simply on critical reviews to carry out further research into the latest reports.