The Bottle to Buy: Chateau Giscours’ 2004 Vintage

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The vastly underrated year in Bordeaux is now drinking better than anyone could have guessed, which means collecting this elegant vintage is nothing short of a steal.

The year 2004 was an unremarkable one in Bordeaux. The season was typical, marked by slow and at times uneven ripening, cooler temperatures, and a long harvest, and the wine—a connoisseur’s vintage—easily overlooked by drinkers who prefer the lush wines of California. Sitting between the two highly collectible years of 2003 and 2005 (plush, ripe, and powerful both), the seemingly austere and tannic 2004 received little attention and was left alone in the cellar.

The region of Bordeaux is as well known for the quality of its wines as it is for the difficulty in producing them. The tricky climate means young wines like the 2004 can feel less approachable off the bat. Give them a few years in the bottle, however, and they’ll surprise you with their balance, elegance, and drinkability. For buyers, that means it may take a little work to find just the right ones to purchase and cellar, but it also means there’s excellent value waiting on the shelf.

The 2004 Château Giscours is just such a bottle. Located in Margaux, a controlled appellation in Bordeaux’s Left Bank particularly recognized for the ever-changing and seductive perfume of its red wines, Giscours is a renowned producer (ranked as a Third-Growth since 1855) celebrated for the surprising power that accompanies its delicate aromatics.

As Alexander van Beek, Château Giscours’ general manager, notes, "In Bordeaux, we try to make a new wine with every vintage, to make the best expression of the year.” The 2004 is a testament to this: Between the opulence of 2003 and the so-called perfection of 2005, Giscours produced a wine that eschews overextraction and heaviness to preserve the vintage’s lift and airiness.

The wine focuses on cabernet sauvignon (70 percent) and merlot (30 percent), leaving out the harder-to-ripen cabernet franc and petit verdot that are often a part of the blend. Elegant and balanced, it’s drinking beautifully now, with a stellar profile that is fruit-forward with lovely floral aromatics and a touch of black pepper. Its integrated tannins just lay softly on the palate, alongside its layers of texture and into its long finish. This is a wine defined by polish and concentration, and it’s worth buying what’s left. Start pouring now, or wait and watch its evolution for a decade or more to come. Either way, it’s bound to be remarkable. $107;

Image Credit: F. Poincet / Chateau Giscours