Over the last couple of days, I drank three different Shirazes from the 2003 vintage. Initially, this vintage was supposed to be quite close in quality to 2002, but then it became clear that the weather pattern was very different and that it was a drought year in comparison with a rather cool 2002 with slow, but excellent riping conditions.
The wines were: Torbreck, The Struie; St. Jakobi from Dutschke and the Whistling Eagle from Heathcote. All wines had good fruit intensity, but then varying degrees of excessive ripeness. Surprisingly, the Torbreck was the worst offender and made the wine one-dimensional and somewhat unattractive. The other two wines managed to overcome the ripe flavours with a fine finish.
Overall, none of these wines would have stood out in a vertical tasting, and no doubt the 2003 vintage should be drunk sooner rather than later.
This experience does not augur well for hot vintages. 2009, forget it, unfortunately. The previous years will be equally difficult. It looks to me that 2004 is the vintage of choice, if you like Victorian or South Australian Shiraz.