There is an evocative power in wine that elevates it from a mere beverage to something more profound. As with Proust’s madeleines, memories can be powerfully resurrected with a mere sip of the right wine, making the past present and the present past.
Sensory impressions can trigger the intense and vivid return of feelings long laid away and a glass of good wine can conjure up a place and a moment with all the bright and colorful kodachrome intact, with no fade of time.
Bordeaux rouge, with its structure and built-in longevity, is particularly good at that.
Case in point:
Chateau Greysac, Medoc Cru Bourgeois, 2003
In these days of runaway price expansions, Chateau Greysac is one of those amazing properties that continue with extremely moderate prices while turning out impressive wines with sturdy consistency. Often overlooked or underestimated by the point chasers and cream skimmers as being just less than profound or just less than an expensive investment opportunity, Greysac is a wine for drinking, not for ‘collecting’.
2003 was a troublesome and conflicting year for Bordeaux. It was the year of the Great Heat Wave that swept Europe and also lodged in the minds of the French as the year the Great Wind came from the west and laid down millions of trees, wreaking great havoc through the countryside.
For the grapes, the heat was both a boon (riper grapes!) and a problem (potential low acidity and flabbiness, along with sunburn—yes, grapes get that—and dehydration). In addition, there was great deal of critical and marketing hype driving up prices and expectations. In the end it established itself as a vintage where much of the wine was acceptable, but few were considered profound.
For Chateau Greysac, the vintage was neither a blessing nor a curse: it was simply a year to make Chateau Greysac.
The 2003 is medium- to light-bodied, a bit lean on texture but nicely balanced with acidity and easy tannins, so it holds together well. It’s curious in that it has the ripe blackberry nature of a warm-region new world wine (in contrast to the herbal/fruit nature of cassis that would mark an old word style), yet without the lush, jammy, ‘fruit bomb’ excessiveness that usually accompanies such heat-driven ripeness. It helps that it is not lashed with obtrusive levels of oak.
In short, it is a wine of balance and restraint and elegance; a wine of under-, rather than over-statement at eight years of age. If you have some 2003, don’t fret: it’s fine and will be so for a few years. On the other hand, you can confidently serve it now and it will grace your table.
As you drink it, either now or in the future, it can remind you of the scorching heat of that year, the relentless, pervasive, killing heat that covered France like a blanket, which lifted its deadly weight just before harvest. From the hammer blow of wind in February to the hot, irritable winds of August, the vines survived and produced this surprisingly elegant remembrance.