Red Rhone 2002: Drink now
Some concentration and power in wines from the north but a poor vintage for Southern Rhône.
The Northern Rhone was afflicted by a series of problems during the year – poor flowering, hail, rot – and the yields could be minus 60% in places. July and August were indifferent.
The Southern Rhone was overwhelmed by terrible rains and floods in the first week of September. Ripening had been fine until then, so some fair whites came through. Higher vineyards suffered a little less, but crop levels were down by a half nearly everywhere.
The North Rhone has more chance this year, providing growers have been conscientious enough to discard special cuvees and make just one wine. The fruit is gummy in texture, not very clear, and chaptalisation was frequent – the last vintage for this was 1993.
In the south, the reds are light-coloured, apt for drinking early. The northern areas like Vinsobres and the Southern Ardeche managed some fair wines in their Cotes du Rhone/Villages categories.
Stick to the big names this year, but prices haven’t moved down very much. Ageing optic would be 10-14 years for a top northern Rhone, and a bit less in the south. If the grower has made two wines, the basic one will be thin and probably bad value – all the goodness will be in the old vines cuvee, itself probably too expensive.