2002 Vintage Overview

2002 Vintage Overview


This has always been a favourite of Burgundy professionals. The whites are fine and crisp, and show their vineyard characteristics. Those comments go for the reds as well, which are pure and precise – without the weight to be considered among the great vintages, but nonetheless a year to give real pleasure.

The weather A dry autumn gave way to an unusually cold, dry winter. We had a white Christmas with a low of -16°C, so the vineyards got a thorough rest while the cold killed off pests and diseases in the vines. A warm February got the season off to an early start and happily there was no late frost to cause damage.

By mid-August the situation seemed perfect – a medium- sized crop, ahead of schedule, and ripening well. Burgundy escaped all the horrific storms that affected the south of France and north of Italy, and indeed the overall volume of rain which was causing despair in Bordeaux. In general, the further north in Burgundy, the better the weather throughout the summer. A hosepipe ban, soon introduced in the Côte d’Or, was not lifted until November. (Somebody in Pommard tried to shop Benjamin Leroux for hosing down his picking cases during the harvest, but he was able to prove that he was using rainwater collected in tanks on his property, thus escaping a €1,500 fine).

The second half of August and the first half of September were indifferent – cool, cloudy, sometimes wet. At first this was welcome, though there was hardly enough precipitation to dispel the drought. However, after a while, growers were beginning to fear for the health of the crop as the first signs of rot set in. Beaujolais was largely picked during this rainy period, and those in a hurry in the Mâconnais machine- picked an indifferent harvest, their overcropped vines suffering from rot before they ripened.

Overall however, and especially further north, it was still a dry year. The headline in the local paper, the Bien Public, on September 12th was ‘Toujours la sécheresse malgré les orages’ (still drought despite the storms) and Denis Bachelet’s grandmother (born 1914) declared it was the worst drought she had ever seen. Even so, it was time for the weather to perk up a bit. Fortunately the wind now turned to the north and dried out the crop. The upper echelon of growers, working with reasonable yields and where necessary leaf-plucked vines, had not suffered much if at all from rot, and now they enjoyed the drying effect of the wind – though it reduced the size of the crop further. Many growers’ forecasts proved to have underestimated the sugar levels in the grapes and to have overestimated the size of the crop.

The Ban de Vendanges in the Côte de Beaune was declared for Monday September 16th, with the weather set fair. There was just one more storm to come, on Thursday 19th, but only parts of Gevrey-Chambertin and Marsannay suffered any hail damage. The harvest came in safely over the next ten days, mostly in very good condition – patches of rot here and there, but plenty of sugar in the grapes and thick skins.

First impressions Everybody was very happy with their 2002 white wines. An acceptable but certainly not excessive volume, very good ripeness but again no excessive degrees of alcohol, and correct acidity. There are some parallels with 1992, but I think the 2002s appeared to offer a better structure for ageing. The cool north wind in September helped to give the wines typicity. Above all they are stylish, graceful wines – and a golden vintage for Chablis.

This was a particularly stylish vintage for red wines too: pure fruit, clean and elegant; medium-bodied, sometimes more; correct acidity; fine and ripe tannins. The surprise for most growers was in the ripeness of the grapes – readings of 12 per cent on the eve of harvest turned out to be 12.8 or 13 per cent when the grapes came in. One grower reported that ‘it is very regular. Even the parts which normally struggle to ripen and which get rot have more ripeness and less rot than usual.’ The wines have a purity of fruit and stylishness that sets them apart from the more muscular 1999s.

The wines in bottle The 10 Year On tasting showed a series of delightful whites with a crisp energy, alongside some which were beginning to fall apart. Sadly, 2002 turned out to be one of the worst affected vintages for premature oxidation. Might this have been because the wines were either bottled during, or at least racked from barrel to tank during the exceptional heatwave of summer 2003? Those that survived this phase have continued serenely on their way and are still drinking very well.

The reds went very quiet for a while, hiding in their shells without any obvious sign of a flowering to come. They seemed light in colour and body, almost a little thin. But I did not lose confidence in them and at 10 years old the lesser village wines were blossoming, the fruit having surmounted the acidity while tannins were never an issue. All the wines have put on weight and depth and the premiers and grands crus are now giving considerable pleasure. 2002 will not challenge for the highest honours, yet they can still be absolutely lovely in their lighter style. And some will certainly continue to improve from here.


Tasting Notes

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Click to read tasting notes on wines from 2002


Tasting Reports

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Click to view – 2002 Revisited

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