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Bordeaux 2002: reassessed in bottle  

Union des Grands Cus Tasting, October 2004

As I’ve commented on frequently on this site, the wine trade gets to meet the new Bordeaux vintage absurdly early in its life, in the March following harvest – soon we’ll be hearing about the 2004 vintage. The wine will still at this stage be in barrel, and the samples shown are a rough indication of the final blend. It’s horrid to have to commit yourself to an assessment of a big red wine’s quality so early in its development, but that’s what the leading Bordeaux critics do each year, and it’s on the basis of barrel ratings from individuals such as Robert Parker that the wines are shifted en primeur. In fact, one of the reasons Parker has become so influential has been because of his ability to call a vintage very early on with some degree of accuracy.

I tried a range of 02s in London, soon after the en primeur tastings, and my notes are here, for what they are worth. You have to be careful about assigning confidence to assessments such as these. Not only could the cask samples shown be misrepresentative of the final blends (the temptation to select from barrels showing particularly well must be strong, and we all know how much inter-barrel variability there is even with wine from the same batch), but there’s also the way the bottled samples will change over the few days before they are shown.

The Union des Grands Crus tastings held some 18 months later give a chance for the trade to reassess a vintage when the wines are in bottle. 2002 was a difficult year in Bordeaux: it was the one with a very cool summer and what was looking like a disastrous harvest was saved in the end only by a miraculous long Indian summer stretching through September and October. Many properties had to carry out two green harvests to ensure ripeness in the remaining fruit. What did I think from the selection of 19 wines that I tried? Overall, I was a little underwhelmed. On the positive side these wines had very good acidity and will probably age into nice traditional clarets; on the negative, many were quite simple, without the concentration, stuffing or potential complexity you’d be expecting if you paid £30 for a bottle of wine. Still, some good wines if the price is right. I didn’t try the first growths, but I suspect with their ability to select heavily, some pretty smart wines will have been made.

Château Canon La Gaffelière 2002 St Emilion
Deep coloured. Deep minerally, spicy nose. A nice, full savoury style. 89/100

Château Figeac 2002 St Emilion
Deep, intense, minerally spicy nose. Complex and very savoury. The palate is intense with high acidity; again, very savoury. The right bank wines aren't supposed to be good in 2002, but this one is. 91/100

Château Grand Mayne 2002 St Emilion
Very deep colour. Alluring ripe black fruits on the nose, which is aromatic and fine. The palate is chewy, savoury and expressive with high acid and nice structure, coupled with a savoury minerality to the fuit. 90/100

Château Pavie Decesse 2002 St Emilion
Roasted nose of dark fruits. Palate shows nice midweight fruit with good acidity and a spicy finish. An expressive, vivid wine. 89/100

Château Clinet 2002 St Emilion
Ripe dark fruits nose with a subtle roasted edge. Classsy. Savoury, bright high acid palate with nice structure. Almost ready to drink. 89/100

Château Brane Cantenac 2002 Margaux
Closed. Spicy, savoury intense palate with good acidity. A traditional style. 88/100

Château Cantenac Brown 2002 Margaux
Closed nose but with some depth evident. Lovely full, savoury palate with good acidi and structure. A big, savoury wine with lots going on. Dark fruits dominate. 90/100

Château d’Angludet 2002 Margaux
Chewy, spicy and savoury. A midweight wine with good structure. 87/100

Château Kirwan 2002 Margaux
A bit of plumpness to the darkfruits, but otherwise a savoury style with high acid and a spicy finish. 88/100

Château Labégorce 2002 Margaux
Light, fresh and bright with high acid. Simple. 85/100

Château Lascombes 2002 Margaux
Dark fruits nose. Bright, high acid palate with fresh fruit and a hint of oak. 86/100

Château Gruaud Larose 2002 Saint-Julien
Open blackcurrant fruit nose with some perfume and a hint of toasty oak. Very open midweight palate which is quite elegant and expressive with good acidity. 91/100

Château Lagrange 2002 Saint Julien
Ripe dark fruits on the nose with a distinctive toasty oak overlay. The palate is firm, full and overoaked. 88/100

Château Langoa Barton 2002 Saint Julien
Dark, full and spicy with nice fruit on the nose. Lovely structure on the palate with some plumpness to the savoury, expressive fruit. Nice stuff. 91/100

Château Léoville Barton 2002 Saint Julien
Elegant spicy dark fruits on the nose, with some ripeness evident. The palate shows full, spicy yet elegant tannins. Savoury and full with good acidity. 91/100

Château Talbot 2002 Saint Julien
Fresh dark fruits nose. The palate shows high acid and a nice chewy, savoury structure. Firm and savoury. 88/100

Château Lynch Bages 2002 Pauillac
Quite open blackcurrant fruit nose which is simple and fresh. Spicy, fruity, savoury palate feels a little light and insubstantial. 89/100

Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2002 Pauillac
Open blackcurrant fruit nose is savoury and expressive. The palate is savoury with high acidity and a nice spicy finish. Midweight. 90/100

Château Pontet Canet 2002 Pauillac
Chewy, dense and spicy with blackfruits dominating. Quite structured with good acidity. 89/100

see also: notes on Bordeaux wines

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