Spurrier's four and five-star wines All I recall of summer 2002 was that it was rained off. A closer look, thanks to Clive Coates’s The Wines of Bordeaux, shows that it was not so much rainy as cold and that the vintage was rescued at the last minute, as was 1978, by an almost perfect Indian summer from mid-September through early October.
But even this could not alter the effects of a catastrophic flowering towards the end of May, which caused much of the right bank Merlots to be lost.
The right bank also suffered from a heavy rainstorm on 20th September, just as they were ripening, which meant that they had to be picked without delay.
The late-ripening Cabernets on the left bank were the winners and there is no doubt that 2002 is a ‘left bank vintage’ and one that gets better the further north you go in the Medoc, with the best wines coming from Pauillac. And wherever the grapes came from, 2002 was definitely not a year for over-extraction.
After seven plentiful harvests the 2002 yield was well down, the smallest crop since the frost-affected 1991 and 22% less than the 1997-2001 average. However, due to green-harvesting and fruit-sorting at vintage time, many of the better chateaux produced only half a normal crop, down in many cases to just half a bottle per vine.
When the vines were launched in 2003, even this small volume was no advantage for it corresponded with the lead-up to the Iraq war and the Sars crisis in Asia. The ‘en primeur’ offers were only taken up to preserve allocations and because the wines were very cheap, the 2002s being offered on the UK market at even less than the then price of the very poor 1992s.
Despite these seemingly good prices for what was rated a ‘quite good/better than expected’ vintage, the 2002s have been steadfastly ignored. To see how they were faring after seven years, Farr Vintners, the UK’s largest traders in Bordeaux, held a tasting of 118 classed growths and their equivalents for group of 17 of us, writers and merchants, including 4 from Bordeaux itself.
Wines were served blind in 10 flights in ‘peer groups’ and judged on a 20 point scale, the points being averaged to produce an order of ranking in each flight.
It has to be said that the UK tasters present, with whom I shall be assessing an even larger range of 2006s in Southwold next January, are critical markers.
Usually, I find myself marking half a point higher than Jancis Robinson MW and half a point lower than John Avery MW, but the latter was not present this time to lift the figures.
The Top 21 (all wines above 16 points)
Le Pin 17.77
Haut Brion 17.5
Cheval Blanc 17.1
Leoville Barton 16.9
Pichon Baron 16.8
Rauzan Segla 16.5
Cos d’Estournel 16.4
Pape Clement 16.3
Pichon Lalande 16.3
Langoa Barton 16.3
Leoville Lascases 16.3
Reserve de la Comtesse 16.2
Pontet Canet 16.1