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Burgundy 2002: first impressions

Today was my first encounter with Burgundy 2002, a much celebrated vintage already. The event was a growers lunch and tasting courtesy of Berry Bros & Rudd, held at the Vintners Hall in the City. I thought I’d add these thoughts now, and then develop them with full notes as time permits.

Lunch was tasty – a delicious beef daube washed down with a spicy Barbera and finished off with a rather good tawny Port. It’s unusual to lunch like this before a tasting, but not unpleasant, and I only had a small glass of wine. Sitting on one side of me were internet buddies Tom Cannavan and Neal Martin; on the other, Jasper Morris of M&V, recently purchased by BBR.

What are my first impressions of the 2002 vintage? These are going to be generalizations, based on relatively few datapoints, and from wines that are not yet bottled. And this is also only my third year tasting Burgundy en primeur. This taken into account, I think it is a very successful vintage, combining ripeness with structure in wines of great balance. The whites and reds I tasted were both lovely.

As well as the usual variations in quality between producer, the key variable is one of style. What is your favourite style of red Burgundy? Riper, fuller and bigger, or more classic and backward? There was wide variation in style among the wines tasted today.

My top picks? I had a good chat with Claire Forestier, winemaker at Domaine Bertagna (although I don’t know if Clare thought it was good – far too many questions). She’s young and switched on, and is making lovely, alluring ripe red wines. The Vougeot Clos de la Perrière (92/100) is my pick of the bunch at £312 case in bond. Very ripe, dense and forward, but still respecting terroir. The Clos de Vougeot (93/100) is even better, but this is £512 per case, alas.

Sylvain Cathiard has excelled in 2002. His Nuits St Georges (91/100) is brilliant for a village wine with nice meaty complexity, yours for £215 per case. But his two 1er Cru Vosne Romanées are in a different league (Les Suchots, 95/100 £366 per case and En Orveaux, 95/100 £426 per case). Both are stunningly intense and complex without losing the elegance that makes Pinot Noir so special.

Nicolas Potel’s reds are very impressive. I spent some time chatting with him and tasting his wines. From the tasty Vieilles Vignes Volnay (90/100 £144 per case) to the exquisite Charmes Chambertin and Clos de la Roche Grand Crus, both 94/100 and £432/420 case respectively), I found something to like about all of them, with their purity of fruit.

Of the whites, Javiller and Sauzet both excelled, and Jean-Marc Boillot was also very good. For bargain hunters, the three Macon wines from the Bret Brothers are full of character and interest (£114-150 per case, scoring 90/91).

January 8th 2004

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