decanter.com has been sent an early copy of Robert Parker’s much-anticipated scores for the 2003 vintage in Bordeaux.

As expected the influential American critic favours the top end of the Medoc – St Estephe and St Julien, and the right bank – St Emilion and Pomerol.

The highest marks (99 points) this year go to Ausone (St Emilion), and the first growths Lafite, Latour and Margaux,

Then come Montrose (St Estephe) and Pavie (St Emilion) with 98 points, followed by Petrus (Pomerol) with 97 points.

Many in the wine world – especially the Anglo-Saxon axis – are surprised by the high marks awarded Pavie. The difference in opinion between Parker and UK writer Jancis Robinson has caused a war or words in the press.

Robinson considers the wine ‘ridiculous’ and compared it unfavourably to Zinfandel. Stephen Browett at Farr Vintners, Clive Coates and others agree with her. James Suckling for the Wine Spectator came to like it but thought it ‘Superripe and almost jammy. Very New World’.

James Lawther for Decanter gave it four stars. It is ‘big and powerful in the super-ripe mould,’ he said.

Parker calls it, ‘another off-the chart effort representing the essence of St Emilion’s greatest terroirs. Along with Ausone and Petrus it is one of the three greatest offerings from the right bank in 2003.’

The two other first growths, Haut-Brion and Mouton, both get 96.5 points. Both were the subject of some controversy. Decanter’s Steven Spurrier awarded them five stars, but other tasters felt their quality could be debated. Suckling thinks Haut Brion could be better than 2000, while Wine International thought there were ‘traces of greenness’.

Of Parker’s top 20 wines, 12 are from St Estephe, St Emilion or Pomerol. The others are the first growths, and Leoville Las Cases and Leoville Poyferre from St Julien.

As usual there are surprises. Some believe he has marked down Palmer (89.5, ‘should be delicious on release’), La Mission Haut Brion (91), Lynch Bages (89), Gruaud Larose (87, ‘lacks a mid-palate as well as great depth’) and L’eglise Clinet (85) – one of the lowest scores given.

Canon La Gaffeliere (88, ‘lacks depth, concentration and length’) and Gazin (Pomerol, both 88) are also low, according to Steven Spurrier. ‘They are known to be the successes of the vintage but he marked them down,’ he said, adding however that Parker had generally given right bank wines higher marks than British critics.

‘This shows he appreciates the ripeness of the St Emilion style more than the Brits do.’

Decanter writer Anthony Rose thought Parker’s top scores tally more or less with the rest of the wine world.

‘I think he considers it a vintage that’s great in parts but not as great as 2000.’

Robert Parker’s full notes are published in the Wine Advocate.

Written by Adam Lechmere