Harvest reports from the 2002 vintage

Bordeaux Right Bank | Bordeaux Left Bank – red | Bordeaux – dry white | Bordeaux – sweet white | Burgundy | Champagne | Loire | California | Pacific Northwest | Loire | North Italy | Central Italy | Southern Italy | Spain | Port | Portugal | Germany | Bulgaria

BORDEAUX RIGHT BANK
15 October 2002 update
James Lawther

Predictions
Four weeks of warm, sunny weather in September turned what could have been a disastrous vintage into a possibly modest to decent year. “I’m happy and surprised as the sugar and acidity is correct, colour and aromas good and if the quantity of tannin is down at least it is ripe,” says Alain Moueix, manager of Saint-Emilion grand cru classé Château Fonroque and Château Mazeyres in Pomerol.

Picking
Picking of the Merlot started the week of 23 September, a function of site, threat of rot and level of (over)ripeness required. The crunch period for many fell around 3-6 October with one or two late players hanging off until the following week, the same time as the Cabernet was brought in. Selection was obligatory, the better producers using two sorting tables and a vibrating table to sift out the small, hard berries caused by millerandage. Yields look like being 20-30% down on the yearly average.

Weather
Apart from the rain storm on 20 September and isolated showers on 9-10 October the weather stayed fine during the harvest. Days were warm (18-23°C) and sunny and a north-easterly breeze kept the rot at bay and helped concentrate the grapes.

Ripeness
Overall sugar and colour appear to be good. Where there is greater disparity is in the ripeness and quality of tannins. “The level of extraction will have to be carefully handled as the tannins are not always fully ripe, otherwise the wines appear round, fruity and supple with perhaps a little lack of volume on the palate,” says consultant oenologist Gilles Pauquet. As always the level of work in the vineyards was a crucial factor.

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25 September 2002
James Lawther

Predictions
The harvest in Saint-Emilion and Pomerol is finally under way drawing to a close the angst of a difficult climatic year. ‘There’s colour and good degrees in the Merlot but it has needed plenty of work in the vineyards and now requires some skilled winemaking,’ says l’Eglise-Clinet’s Denis Durantou.

Picking
Vieux Château Certan, normally one of the first off the mark, started on Friday 20 September as did Château Cheval Blanc. By Tuesday 24 September pickers at Angélus, l’Eglise-Clinet, Le Pin and Trotanoy had brought in the first Merlot grapes. In later ripening sites producers are hanging out for the first week in October to harvest their Merlot. ‘We’re keeping an eye on the sanitary state of the crop but reckon we can gain a little more ripeness and balance if the weather holds,’ says Nicolas Thienpont, manager of Saint-Emilion grands crus classés Bellevue, Larcis-Ducasse and Pavie-Macquin.

The official Ban de Vendange (date from which vintners may officially start picking) for the Cabernet is 30 September, but much will depend on the weather and state of the crop as rot is also a problem here. Overall, yields are likely to be down this year due to the difficult fruit set in June.

Weather
Weather conditions for the next few days are expected to remain good with cold overnight temperatures and crisp, dry, sunny days (17-21°C) predicted. Producers will feel they are due this following a year which saw a difficult flowering leading to coulure and millerandage (poor fruit set resulting in small and varied size grapes respectively), a cool, wet summer, the constant threat of rot and then a heavy rain storm last Friday afternoon.

Hail accompanied the Friday rain storm but Saint-Emilion and Pomerol came off unscathed. The hail which swung across from the Médoc hit sectors in the Côtes de Blaye, Côtes de Castillon, Côtes de Francs and Entre-Deux-Mers.

Ripeness
A spell of warm, sunny weather in September helped advance maturity and kept the rot in check, but botrytis and rain have made grape skins fragile.

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BORDEAUX LEFT BANK – RED
17 October 2002 update
Alan Spencer

Predictions
Jean-Dominique Videau, at Médoc classed growth La Tour Carnet, describes 2002 as ‘the wonder vintage’. ‘Up until 10 September,’ he says, ‘we were seriously worried, but from then on superb weather turned the situation round. Three weeks of bright sunshine with a warm north wind dried out thegrapes and helped them achieve optimum maturity. It’s a small vintage, but of excellent quality.’ At the Pessac-Léognan classed growth Malartic-Lagravière, Alfred-Alexandre Bonnie is equally upbeat. ‘The first tastings of the Merlot show great richness – extremely ripe. Cabernets, of top quality, finished yesterday, now macerating, and show sumptuous quality. We will have a very small but remarkable vintage. The slightly high acidity – like the 1978s – makes the wines seem austere but this will soften with barrel-ageing.’

Predictions
The Merlots, with very low yield, were all picked two weeksago. The Cabernet Franc followed and is now fermenting. CabernetSauvignon was virtually all in vat by mid-October.

Weather
In a word, unpredictable. November and December were harshbut spring and early summer showed above average temperatures. Badweather in June hampered fertilisation (coulure and millerandage),especially on the Merlot, and the soft north-east wind in September, bydrying the grapes, further reduced volume by 15-20%. With 52+ hours of sunshine, September was the sunniest month in 12 years. Finally, violent storms on September 20-21 caused considerable damage, fortunately very localised.

Ripeness
Bright, warm and sunny weather throughout the harvest period, together with a drying north-east wind, ensured optimum ripeness, especially of the Merlot. Small in quantity, berries were also small in size, but very clean and healthy otherwise. Potential alcohol, due to exceptional ripeness, is 12.5%.

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16 September 2002
Alan Spencer

Predictions
According to Château Lamothe-Cissac’s Vincent Fabre, who is president of the Médoc and Haut-Médoc Syndicat, there were very heavy losses at flowering due to coulure and millerandage (poor fruit set resulting in undersized and malformed grapes), especially on the Merlot, which means the harvest will be very short. ‘In spite of poor weather in August, with low temperatures and little sun, we had a surprisingly dry season and the Cabernets are looking very good,’ he says. ‘From a purely qualitative view, we could have a great vintage.’

Meanwhile in Margaux, négociant Allan Sichel, at the family’s Château d’Angludet, is talking of a promising harvest. ‘Although flowering was very uneven, apparently fewer bunches have allowed the vines to compensate, and recent sunny weather has helped the grapes quickly catch up,’ he says.

Picking
The Ban des Vendanges for the Merlot (when vintners may start picking) has been set officially for Thursday 19 September. The Médoc & Haut-Médoc Syndicat is holding a meeting the next day to determine the situation. Forward terroirs may start right away. The clay-limestone areas won’t be ready until next week. In recent years, the Cabernets have been in advance, but this year vintners will try to wait until early October, depending on the weather pattern. Picking may then take a week or 10 days.

Weather
After an unfavourable summer, the weather this last week has beenexceptionally bright and sunny, helping the grapes catch up. Theforecast for the next 10 days is promising.

Ripeness
After a bad start, the Merlot is irregular, better in some parts thanothers. Quality for the Cabernets is more consistent. They are lookingvery good at this stage.

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BORDEAUX – DRY WHITE
11 September 2002 update
Alan Spencer

Predictions
Despite inclement weather this year, Dominique Haverlan of Vieux Chateau Gaubert and president of the Graves Syndicate, is confident of a good harvest. ‘The grapes are showing excellent aromatic savours,’ he says. ‘Also, acidity is high which means the wines will be fresher and livelier.’ He compares the situation with 1992, a wet year unfavourable for the reds but an excellent white vintage.

In Pessac-Leognan, Eric Perrin at Château Carbonnieux is surprised to find the same acid/sugar balance as last year, which suggests the wines will be crisp but fruity. ‘We did more work in the vineyards in August, cutting out unripe bunches and de-leafing.’ There was some coulure (poor fruit set) at the time of flowering, especially on the Sauvignon, so yield will be a little lower.

‘Quantity will be lower, but quality is expected to be excellent,’ Perrin says, though he admitted the wines may not be so aromatic, and may lack the typicity and strong personality the Chateau achieved in 2001.

Picking
Picking Sauvignon Blanc in Pessac-Leognan started between 2 and 6 September, though it didn’t begin in earnest until the following week, 3-4 days later than last year. In Southern Graves, picking mostly began on 9 September, coinciding with an improvement in the weather. Some producers appear to be delaying picking to take advantage of the sudden fine spell, which is forecast to last several days. Picking in Entre-deux-Mers is due to start next week; the prolific white wine region traditionally picks later than the Left Bank.

Weather
After rain and storms in August and early September, berries have had a tendency to burst causing rot in many parcels, mostly the Sauvignon. Sémillon has proved less vulnerable. However, most vintners are being extremely cautious and outsorting unsound grapes before crushing.

Ripeness
Sauvignon Blancs are very aromatic and the Semillons round and well-balanced. back to top

20 September 20
Alan Spencer

Predictions
André Lurton of Châteaux La Louvière, Couhins-Lurton, Bonnet (Entre-Deux-Mers)and others, is president of the Pessac-Léognan syndicat. According to Lurton, ripeness has been rather uneven this year. ‘We harvested in two, sometimes three runs, each time picking only the ripest bunches. Due to coulure (poor fruit set) and rot, it will be a short harvest but the grapes show phenomenal power. The berries are crisp and fruity. We are frankly astounded. The state of the vendanges at this stage might be comparable to 1983, a great white vintage.’ Patrick Monvoisin on behalf of Leda, which owns châteaux Haut-Sèlve and Bonnat in the southern Graves, said: ‘we finished picking Wednesday 18 September and the vendanges are looking far better than anticipated. We outsorted the grapes during picking and again on a sorting table. Higher acidity may require shorter barrel-ageing, say, 7 or 8 months instead of 12.’

Picking
The Ban des Vendanges (earliest allowed picking date) for the Sauvignon Blanc was fixed for 9 September, and the Sémillon for the 13. Virtually every châteaux had finished picking by the weekend 21-22 September.

Weather
In spite of a deficit of sun this summer with rain and storms causingwidespread rot, especially on the Sauvignon, temperatures were higherthan expected with cool nights. After a bad start, September turned out bright and sunny and looks set to continue in spite of storm warnings.

Ripeness
The shortfall in luminosity delayed ripening, but hot weather inSeptember helped the grapes catch up. Vintners were torn between leaving the bunches to mature and picking before rot set in. The grapes are fruity with high acidity, but acidity can be reduced in the cellar.

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BORDEAUX – SWEET WHITE
20 September 2002
Alan Spencer

Predictions
According to Gabriel de Vaucelles at the classified Château Filhot, noble rot this year is already well advanced. He said: ‘we will no doubt need four ‘tris’ [runs] to pick the botrytized grapes. The first tri, now completed, from the Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc parcels is showing extremely well with excellent potential alcohol content of 21 degrees. The Muscadet in particular is extremely aromatic.’

Picking, Weather, Ripeness
The cool weather in August which prevented the grapes from reachingripeness has been compensated by the recent hot, sunny weather and thefirst picking of the Sémillon (60% of grapes at Filhot), always a little later, started 20 September.

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BURGUNDY
1 October 2002
Natasha Hughes

Predictions
Growing conditions have been pretty good during the year, and Burgundy seems set for a relatively untroubled vintage. Like many Burgundians, Maison Joseph Drouhin’s Philippe Drouhin, though, is prepared to express only cautious optimism. ‘Experience tells us that those years where the harvest goes well aren’t necessarily the years that create good wines,’ he warns. ‘Having said that, though, I believe that this year will produce some very good wines, perhaps even some exceptional ones – and that applies to both whites and reds.’ Aubert de Villaine at Domaine de la Romanée Conti (DRC) is similarly circumspect. ‘Given the great ripeness of the grapes, the depth of colour you see in the cuvees and the great harvest weather, I think we’ll end up with something good, but it’s difficult to try and predict where it stands in terms of other vintages.’

Picking
Starting dates spread throughout September, with the Côte Chalonnaise beginning as early as the 12 September. Most winemakers, however, have waited until later in the month, making the most of the fine weather. De Villaine’s harvest in the Côte de Nuits began on the 16, when the young vines were picked, but it wasn’t until a couple of days later that the harvest began in earnest, finishing on Friday 27 September. At Maison Drouhin, the picking didn’t start until Monday the 23 September and is not scheduled to be over until Thursday 3 October.

Weather
Unlike many other French wine regions, Burgundy escaped the worst of the year’s capricious weather. Conditions, generally speaking, have been unexceptional. ‘It’s really been an easy year,’ says Drouhin. ‘There’s been hardly any rain, which has made working the vines easy and allowed them to ripen well.’ DRC’s de Villaine was not as content with the weather. ‘It was one of those chaotic years,’ he says, ‘there was too much heat at times, too much rain at others, which stressed the grapes. Come harvest-time, however, the Côte de Nuits was blessed.’

Right across Burgundy, there was a moment of anxiety at the start of September, when the skies clouded over and rain began to fall. Early signs of rot were seen in the vineyard, but the skies soon cleared. ‘We had a gift from the gods,’ says Drouhin. ‘The sky was blue, the sun shone and the sugars ripened. As a result, we’ve harvested very healthy grapes with great sugar ripeness.’

Ripeness
Overall, the grapes this year are in great condition, despite the threat of rot in early September. The rains held off, though, allowing the grapes to achieve maximum ripeness before picking. ‘Sugar levels were perfect,’ says de Villaine, ‘and the tannins were ripe, too. I think the wines these grapes produce will show great balance, with fine acidity and plenty of fruit.’

An inspection of the Hospices de Beaune vineyards early in September led their manager, Roland Masse, to report, ‘Tests show potential alcohol of better than 11.5 in Savigny-lès-Beaune and Volnay. And acidities are holding up well – the grapes are pleasant to chew and, when pressed, the juices have a good colour.’

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CHAMPAGNE
19 September 2002
Giles Fallowfield

Predictions
Lower than expected yields augur well for quality, with Moët & Chandon’s chief winemaker Georges Blanck predicting a good to very good level, perfect for Chardonnay, but with more variability among the Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. ‘It is a far too early to predict whether it will be a vintage year, but the potential of 2002 seems to be very good,’ he says. Michel Drappier, in the Côte des Bar town of Urville, expects to make some Vintage Champagne but also notes great variation in quality from one vineyard to another. ‘Some of the wines will be gorgeous, and blending the rest should produce excellent non-vintage.’ If the mainly dry, sunny conditions continue in the second half of September the prospects for quality look good, with overall yields back down to a level near the official maximum, set at 12,000 kilos per hectare.

Picking
Unusually, some of the earliest official dates for picking were in the grand cru villages of the Côte des Blancs. Chardonnay could be picked in Oger and Avize from Thursday 12 September, and in Chouilly and Cramant just two days later. However, the Pinot Noir harvest in the Montagne de Reims didn’t really begin until this past weekend with Verzy on the 20 September, Bouzy on the 21 and Mailly the 22. Because there are start dates as late as 28 September, picking is unlikely to finish before the first weekend in October.

Weather
In stark contrast to 2001, the weather in September has been good, ‘perfect’ even according to Moët’s Georges Blanck, who adds, ‘I have no complaints about the weather, at least since the beginning of September. We’ve had cool temperatures during the night, dry weather during the day, with sunshine, and not any fog. We cannot expect better weather conditions.’ Elizabeth Chartogne-Taillet, a grower based in Merfy, to the north-west of Reims, is just as pleased. ‘Despite the bad weather in August, the last two weeks were wonderful: cold nights and sunny days with wind.’ However, rain in late August did see botrytis problems start to develop in some vineyard areas.

Ripeness
According to Blanck, ‘Chardonnay is definitely the variety with the highest potential of ripening, above 10° alcohol potential in the first grapes, and this high level is general for all crus with Chardonnay,’ he says. ‘Pinot Meunier is number two, with Pinot Noir the slowest to ripen – at least eight days later. The current average sugar level is at 10.2°alcohol potential, which is good news.’ Despite total acidity being lower than normal, Blanck expects the final acidity balance for the 2002 wines to be ‘very good’.

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LOIRE
3 October 2002
Decanter staff

Predictions
‘The Loire generally is looking VERY nice so far’ (Charles Sydney, courtier). ‘This year the opinion in several French winemaking regions is that we are hoping for a better vintage than 2001.’ (Interloire)

Weather
‘The wine world has a happy smile on its face’ according to Interloire, the official trade body for the wines of the Loire Valley. After a stormy start to the year the fine weather was slow in coming, resulting in harvest being put back by six to eight days. But the weather in September – which is the most important month as far as harvest is concerned – was excellent.

Picking
The reds and the chenins are coming in this week (beginning 30 September). The Sauvignons in Touraine, according to Chinon-based courtier Charles Sydney, ‘are very nice. Quantities are down as there was some rot, which was dried out by September’s sunshine and cool winds. Those guys who had the courage to go in and cut out any unripe or rotten bunches have made some splendid wines’.

Ripeness
The Muscadets are fantastic, according to Sydney. ‘Golden grapes with thick skins, high degrees of sugar and good acidities’. According to Interloire, sugar levels are ‘unbelievable’. Sauvignon comes in at 12.4 degrees, Gamay at 11.2, while Groslot and Cabernet are already at 10.6 degrees with 2 weeks still to go to picking. There was a big flowering – those who controlled yields through de-budding or thinning have very healthy, very ripe crop. Those that haven’t controlled yields have a mixed bag of ripe, unripe, and rotten fruit.

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CALIFORNIA
1 October 2002
Decanter staff

Predictions
Winemakers are extremely optimistic about quality this year. Many of them were thinning their crops during June and July, concentrating the flavours in the ripe berries. The cool growing season allowed long hang time for the berries, again concentrating flavours and enhancing the fruit intensity. Craig Williams at Joseph Phelps says he is ‘very optimistic’ for the quality of the vintage this year, a view echoed by Ed Sbragia at Beringer and many others. Gloria Ferrer’s winemaker Bob Iantosca said, ‘It’s tempting fate to make projections at this point, but it should be a great year if the weather holds up.’ Tim Milos at Napa’s S Anderson said, ‘Barring catastrophe, we’re looking at the best vintage and finest Cabernet in S Anderson history.’

Picking
Harvesting started in Carneros with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for sparkling wine brought in at the end of August. After that, Chardonnay, Pinot and Merlot for still wines were started, with the last grapes coming in at the end of October. In Monterey, grapes for sparkling wine were picked in the last week in August – just before Labor Day on 2 September. In South Sonoma the whites were started at the beginning of September, with the harvest expected to last until 25 October. Moving north, in Napa, the Merlot should come in first, followed by Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

Weather
Spring and summer in California were just about perfect this year. A heat spike in early August in Carneros was about the only minor worry. Otherwise a benevolent spring with no excessive heat to affect flowering, followed by a cool, steady August, has winemakers (with fingers crossed) talking about really excellent quality this year. Conditions earlier in the year were also good, with no frost and very little rain after set, so growers were able to perfectly control the amount of water that got to the vines.

Growers and vintners don’t stop looking at the sky, however, until the grapes are in. September in Napa – and further south – has been characterised by cool, foggy mornings. But there have also been unseasonably hot days, with temperatures hitting the mid-nineties, that have caused some jittery moments.

Ripeness
In parts of Sonoma the crop is around 10% bigger than last year. Ripening in much of California has been uniform: the cool and steady summer weather allowing long hang time and a real chance for flavours to develop. Most winemakers say the overall quality of the fruit is excellent – some reckon this has been one of the best years for over a decade. Tina Mitchell at Napa’s William Hill Winery for example says, ‘The reds are exhibiting loads of ripe, intense blackberry and plum flavours. This may be one of the finest growing seasons I’ve witnessed in 12 years of making wine at William Hill.’ The state of California reckons the 2002 crop will come in at 3.3m tons, 8% more than last year.

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PACIFIC NORTHWEST
4 November 2002

Predictions
Winemakers are reporting a spectacular harvest throughout the Pacific Northwest, with low yields per hectare, small berries and wonderful flavours. Some wineries say fruit quality is as good as the excellent 1994 vintage, with Syrah the star performer. Tony Rynders, winemaker at Domaine Serene in Oregon, says it’s been a ‘fabulous’ vintage for Syrah, which he says is due to a 20-50% reduction in yields right across the board resulting from frost damage early in the year combined with an excessively hot summer and autumn.

Picking
The Pacific Northwest is in the process of wrapping up the 2002 harvest, with winemakers expecting to have everything in by the end of the first week of November.

Early picking begun mid-late September in Oregon, particularly in the warmer, southern half of the state, though most wineries in the Willamette Valley waited until early October to start picking Pinot Noir in earnest. Dundee’s Domaine Serene brought in its first Syrah of the season on 15 September – from Seven Hills Vineyard in Walla Walla Valley and Del Rio in Rogue Valley. The last of the Syrah fruit was picked on 26 October. In Washington, picking began in a great rush on 9 September, with wineries capitalising on the very hot summer.

Weather
The season started out cool across the Pacific Northwest, but early summer temperatures in the low 30s put the grape crop ahead in some areas. The high temperatures have helped to keep berry size small and yields low, boding well for an excellent vintage. The usual autumn rains did not arrive, and the weather remained warm – if not hot – throughout October. In southern Oregon, temperatures in the vineyard reached 46°C, with readings of 42-43°C fairly typical. Heat stress and shrivelled grapes have been a problem in some areas, though Mary David at Beaux Freres says that the hot days and cool nights throughout October have provided perfect ripening conditions. At Domaine Drouhin, Scott Wright reports that the region’s single day of rain in mid-September served to relieve drought stress without damaging ripening. ‘We had heat and winds the next day, and there was no rot, no powdery mildew, and not a single shrivelled grape.’

Ripeness
The heat has seen rapidly rising sugar levels in some vineyards – and not just in the Syrah crop. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are also hitting the highs, even in the hard-to-ripen northern Willamette Valley area of Oregon. Winemakers are looking forward to making some big, intense, highly structured wines as a result. High acidity is also evident, which may alleviate some of the perceived ripeness.

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NORTH ITALY
24 October 2002 update
Michèle Shah

Predictions
‘This vintage is well above average,’ says Gianni Menotti of Villa Russiz in Collio. ‘The wines are perfectly balanced between alcohol, aromas and acidity. Our only problem is that we don’t have enough wine.’ Villa Russiz suffered a 30% loss in production. Gavi, Barbaresco and Barbera are doing better than expected. Dolcetto has not averaged well, and Barolo, according to Federico Cerreto, will be only ‘average quality’.

Picking
Most regions finished picking the week beginning 21 October. In Piedmont losses have been between 25%- 50%, in particular Barolo, and in the Veneto losses reached 50%.

Weather
Hail and rain wiped out some of Piedmont and Veneto’s top productions, such as Barolo and Amarone, however a final burst of 20 days of sun saved a potentially disastrous harvest. Friuli had good climatic conditions throughout.

Ripeness
According to Roberto Bava in Monferrato, the Barbera ripened well to reach 14% alcohol. Cerreto’s Nebbiolo (for Barbaresco) attained good ripening, and Cabernet gave excellent results. ‘If there is any Amarone to be made it will be mediocre in quality,’ says Paolo Speri from Veneto. Many Veneto producers say they will be using their Amarone grapes to make a classy Valpoliocella Riserva.

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18 September 2002
Michèle Shah

Predictions
‘Many of us will forgo making Barolo this year,’ says Piedmont producer Elio Altare, badly hit by recent hailstorms. Veneto producers also hit by hailstorms predict that there will be a 50% fall in the production of Amarone. ‘What was not damaged by hail has been attacked by mold. A rigorous selection of Amarone’s Corvina grapes will be made into Valpolicella,’ says Emilio Fasoletti, director of the Valpolicella grower’s association. ‘It’s not an exceptional year,’ says Elda Felluga, from Friuli, ‘reds are doing better than whites this year, but what we need is final boost of sunshine.’

Picking
Most producers have started picking the earlier varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Dolcetto. Piedmont’s Nebbiolo will start around 20 September. In order to ensure quality levels for this year’s vintage, producers in all regions are making rigorous selections during harvest.

Weather
So far this year’s harvest has been characterized by adverse climatic conditions. Right now the weather seems to have settled to warm sunny days.

Ripeness
Due to heavy rains some producers have been battling with less resistant grape skins which risk splitting before reaching maturity. Recioto producers in Soave are hoping for good, stable weather to ripen their Garganega grapes.

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CENTRAL ITALY
24 October 2002 update
Michèle Shah

Predictions
In Umbria, whites are showing interesting aromas, freshness and a pleasant body. Reds show good alcohol level, fruity aromas and elegance. In Tuscany some producers, such as Castello di Ama, have opted to concentrate on a top Chianti Classico bottling. Others, such as Cecchi, will be making a Riserva. ‘Our vineyards in Castellina in Chianti are well exposed and healthy,’ says Riccardo Periccioli, Cecchi’s enologist. ‘The Vernaccia grapes in San Gimignano and the Morellino di Scansano on the Maremma coast have given excellent results.’

Picking
Most estates finished picking the Sangiovese and Cabernet the week beginning 21 October. ‘Sangiovese did better than the early ripening varieties,’ says Marco Pallanti, enologist at Castello di Ama. Generally amounts are down by 10%.

Weather
Cool temperatures and rains persisted throughout July and August. A few sunny days graced September.

Ripeness
‘We kept a constant vigil on the ripening and the health of the grapes which were carefully selected and handpicked to ensure optimum quality,’ says Marco Caprai in Umbria. According to Tuscany vintners, the alcohol level is lower than last year. Sugar and acidity levels are good and will make for fresher wines.

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17 September 2002
Michèle Shah

Predictions
‘This year’s harvest in both regions of Lazio and Umbria depends on the area of production; those vineyards spared by heavy rains and hail have done well,’ says enologist consultant, Riccardo Cotarella. ‘Lazio’s coastal area has done particularly well.’ In Central Italy, Caprai cautions the need for a rigorous selection of grapes during harvest, predicting 2002 to be only a two star vintage. Tuscany’s coastal area of Bolgheri echoes the same caution. ‘We’ve all been spoilt with a row of good vintages, this year Tuscany is up against a difficult harvest, it’s still early to say,’ says Bolgheri producer Enrico Santini.

Picking
Central Italy started harvesting its earlier varieties, such as Chardonnay and Sauvingon Blanc, at the last week of August. Now they are picking Merlot. Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon are picked later in September, which gives them some time to recuperate.

Weather
Hail and rain during August has caused the berries to swell with excess water. Right now the weather is sunny and dry, and producers are keeping their fingers crossed.

Ripeness
The lack of hot sunny days has slowed down the ripening. ‘If the weather stays good for the rest of the harvest we could still have a very good vintage, similar to the harvest of 1995,’ says Frescobaldi.

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SOUTHERN ITALY
24 October 2002 update
Michèle Shah

Predictions
Whites such as Greco, Fiano and Falanghina, and red Piedirosso have done well at altitudes where mold did not race through vines. According to Franco Argiolas in Sardinia, ‘the wines show great colour and aromatic complexity. ‘It’s a five-star red vintage.’ Leone de Castris n Puglia predicts a difficult vintage, less so for whites, such as Chardonnay, but a non winner vintage for reds. Negroamaro is one of the varieties that suffered most.

Picking
Mold and rain have caused production drops between 30%-50% in Campania and Puglia. ‘We are a little concerned about our Aglianico grapes, which still have to be picked at the end of October,’ says Antonio Mastroberardino. His hope now is that the weather holds out.

Weather
Rains and coolness persisted in Campania, Puglia and northern Sardinia. A temperate climate benefited southern Sardinia and Sicily.

Ripeness
‘This has been an excellent harvest,’ says Stefania Lena from Abbazia Santa Anastasia in Sicily. ‘The temperate climate has enabled the grapes to enjoy a slow ripening, marking a complexity of aromas and structure.’

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17 September 2002
Michèle Shah

Predictions
According to Gianni Zonin, Sicily is the star of 2002 harvest ‘This year’s quality is exceptionally good.’ In Campania, Salvatore Avallone of Villa Matilde advises it’s not going to be a five star vintage, but he’s not as pessimistic as producers up north. So far the harvest is going well. Feudi di San Gregorio in Puglia is less enthusiastic and already predicts a 30% drop in quantity.

Picking
Donnafugata started picking their Chardonnay by night on 2 August, while further south the island of Pantelleria started picking its ‘zibibbo’ by 19 August. Right now Sicily is picking its Moscato di Noto. Nero D’Avola will be picked later in September. In Puglia and Campania they started more or less on time and are now picking the Primitivo grapes, followed by Greco, Fiano and Flalnghina at the end of September. Aglianico will be picked at the end of October.

Weather
While the Southern Italian regions of Puglia, Basilicata and Campania have complained of excessive rain, which required intensive anti-mold treatment, Sicily has had a fair amount of draught this summer.

Ripeness
‘Here in Sicily the heat this year is less intense than the previous couple of years, in fact the harvest is 12 behind last year. The grapes are ripening well, reaching a better balance, with good, intense aromas,’ says Santi Planeta.

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SPAIN
23 November 2002 update
John Radford

Predictions
Catalunya: a good deal of wastage due to wet weather and therefore rot, so a smaller harvest but those grapes which made it are good to very good quality, and most good bodegas are predictng good to very good quality for the finished wines. Montse Torres of Bodegas Miguel Torres says, ‘quality and quantity have been normal [good], with cases of high quality, like in the new vineyards near the Pyrenees, at Tremp.’

Rioja: 23% drop in quantity from 2001 and the lowest production per hectare for ten years. Some doubts over quality, with top bodegas predicting excellent quality but most more cautious. The Consejo Regulador says, ‘for some of the wines already obtained, there is much talk about excellent quality, good structure and a suitability for ageing comparable to that of the 2001 vintage. However, for a major part of the harvest, experts prefer to wait before making any pronouncements.’

Jerez: a drier than average year, in complete contrast with northern Spain but still with a drop in quantity – and a commensurate increase in quality – compared with 2001. Bosco Torremocha of Fedejerez says, ‘there have been differences between the various pagos of the Denomination of Origin, with higher Baumé and earlier maturation in the more inland vineyards and a slower maturation in those closer to the sea.’

Picking
Catalunya: white grapes in August; red grapes early September, finished 30th October.

Rioja: started on 4th September in Rioja Baja, intermittent rains and some Botrytis.

Jerez: started mid-August and finished 30th September.

Weather
Catalunya: a lot of rain immediately prior to the vintage, so early picking to avoid Botrytis.

Rioja: the harvest began in good weather but excessive summer rains had bloated some of the grapes. It finished on 30th October.

Jerez: the ‘poniente’ westerly wind prevented overheating and the weather was dry and perfect for harvesting.

Ripeness
Catalunya: rains in Penedès resulted in an under-ripe vintage, but areas beyond reported good, healthy grapes after ‘strict selection’.

Rioja: excessive rain resulted in some over-ripe grapes despite the cooler weather. In important areas such as Cenicero, anything up to 50% of the crop had to be discarded.

Jerez: good, healthy grapes and about average ripeness at just over 11° Baumé – excellent for Sherry base-wine.

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21 September 2002
John Radford

Predictions
Rioja is looking good to very good, but is unlikely to match the magnificent 2001 vintage for quantity or quality. It appears the 2002 harvest will be about 10% smaller than last year’s – about 35m kg, an average of 5,800 kg/ha against a legal maximum of 9,000 for whites and 6,500 for reds. 35m kg represents approximately 42 hl/ha, well down on the ‘dilute’ 2000 vintage.

Penedès has not fared so well, thanks to a great deal of rain, and quantity and quality will probably be down on 2001. Quantity will be down too in Ribera del Duero, by about 10-20% thanks to spring frost, though the grapes are looking very healthy. Provided there are no upsets between now and mid-to-late October the vintage should be very good. Malpica is promising an excellent vintage.

Picking
In Penedès, the harvest started in the second week of August, but this early start was mainly due to problems of rot in lower-altitude vineyards (particularly Macabeo, which will be short this year). Xarel.lo is being picked in late September. Some growers picked Parellada before the violent rainstorms of the weekend of 14-15 September, but harvesting had to stop until the skies cleared. Meanwhile, Cabernet-Sauvignon is still on the vine waiting to achieve full ripeness.

Further south, the Marqués de Griñón was harvesting Syrah in the first week of September at Malpica, where conditions have been so perfect that in July there was the threat of 18,000 kg/ha at vintage time. The estate did a massive green harvest at that time and then did another one in late August to get the yield down to manageable levels.

Weather
Because of rain throughout August in Rioja, there have been outbreaks of botrytis which has been especially severe among white varietals. However, since the weekend of the 14-15 September, warm, sunny weather has helped to clear a lot of the rot. The third week of September was cloudy and rainy, and the end result will depend on the weather from here on. In Ribera del Duero, the grapes are in perfect health and the weather in mid-September was very good for ripening.

Problems of rot in lower-altitude vineyards in Penedès have been exacerbated by late, persistent and excessive rain, which has also brought rot to the Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo) and Merlot (though to a lesser extent). Chardonnay suffered from the rain at the end of the ripening period.

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PORT
17 October 2002 update
Richard Mayson

After high hopes at the outset, 2002 has turned out to be a major disappointment in the Douro. For most it was a stop-start vintage, picking in between spells of torrential rain. Those who waited, clearly lost the gamble for the rain continued into mid-October. The wet weather along with warm temperatures caused the grapes to rot on the vine. Old vineyards, mostly interplanted with different grape varieties, were particularly badly affected. Many growers at higher altitudes and in the Baixo Corgo (the last of the three sub-regions to pick) simply left their grapes on the vine.

But all is not completely lost. In early/mid-September the grapes were in near perfect condition and those who managed to pick before the rain set in have small quantities of good, possibly even outstanding wine. Although it is much too early to be certain, some producers in the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior should have sufficient quantity of high quality wine to make a single quinta declaration early in 2004.

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27 September 2002
Richard Mayson

Predictions
Paul Symington (Dow’s, Warre’s, Graham’s, Smith Woodhouse, Gould Campbell and Quinta do Vesuvio) had been anticipating a good vintage. ‘At the end of August the grapes were looking a bit small,’ he says, ‘but over the next few weeks they filled out well and it was looking really promising’. Dick Niepoort was feeling optimistic too. ‘It looked ideal,’ he says, ‘the perfect year for Tinta Roriz.’

Given Tinta Roriz’s overall importance, its healthy state heralded well for a fine vintage. But on Friday 13 September torrential rain combined with warm weather dashed hopes. ‘The vintage started very well with early maturation, good balance and very good fruit,’ says Niepoort. ‘What we got in early is good, but what we are picking now is not so good.’

Picking
Picking began in the Douro Superior during the week of 9 September but those further downstream held off until 16 September.

Weather
A dry winter with about third the average rainfall was followed by a dry summer without the extreme heat that burns up the grapes on the vine. Rain over the weekend of the 7-8 September helped to swell the berries. But on Friday 13 the weather broke. With torrential rain and warm temperatures, the grapes began to rot on the vine. The old, interplanted vineyards with a high percentage of the Tinta Amarela grape have been particularly badly affected.

Ripeness
Earlier harvested grapes have good maturation and balance.

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PORTUGAL
17 October 2002 update
Richard Mayson

After a dry summer, the rains came early this year making for a challenging vintage all over the country. In the Alentejo and Ribatejo where picking begins at the end of August, about 50% of the crop was in before the weather broke on 13 September. Rui Reguinga, consultant winemaker for a number of leading estates in central-southern Portugal reports that these areas produced well-balanced wines with good levels of alcohol and acidity. As soon as the rains began however, it became much more difficult, particularly as the vines were under considerable stress due to the dry summer. The grapes took up water, diluting the sugars, and then burst causing widespread rot. Rui Reguinga calculates that about 20% of the crop was lost.

In the north of Portugal, 2002 has been little short of catastrophic for many growers. In the Dao region, only the early-ripening grape varieties (Tinta Roriz and Jaen) were fully ready to harvest before the rains. With warm temperatures, rot was widespread and quality-conscious growers had to make a rigorous selection. Once again, Rui Reguinga, who is responsible for making the wines at Quinta dos Roques in the Dao, estimates that up to 60% of the crop was lost this way.

Further north and in the coastal regions of Bairrada and Vinhos Verdes, many growers didn’t bother to pick at all and left their grapes to rot on the vine. In the Douro, the small quantity of fully ripe grapes harvested before the rains was mostly used to make Port and it is unlikely that there will be much in the way of high quality Douro wine in 2002.

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27 September 2002
Richard Mayson

Predictions
At the time of writing, the harvest has become a race against time. Although fine weather has returned, it remains to be seen how growers in Estremadura, Bairrada, Dão and Vinho Verde will fare. Older vineyards, interplanted with a number of different grape varieties, will undoubtedly come off the worst. Overall, it seems that the crop will be of average size, but perhaps 30% down on last year.

Picking
An unusually cool summer, even in the deep south of the country, saw picking begin a week or so later than usual, commencing in the Alentejo and Ribatejo in early September.

Weather
The growing season was extremely dry throughout Portugal but the summer was relatively cool with no extreme heat, even in the far south. The southern half of Portugal enjoyed three weeks of good vintage weather, before a deep depression settled over the Iberian Peninsula. Rain fell from the Minho in the north down the Algarve in the south – no one was spared. There was localised flooding around Oporto, and even the south of the country suffered four or five days of torrential rain. Thin-skinned native grapes, especially Trindadeira (the same as the Douro’s Tinta Amarela), began to rot.

Ripeness
David Baverstock, technical director of the huge Esporao estate at Reguengos de Monsaraz, reports ‘good balance, reasonable baumés [concentration of grape sugars] but a somewhat smaller crop than in 2001’.

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GERMANY
15 October 2002
Josie Butchart

Predictions
Growing conditions have been excellent throughout Germany – the warm, dry weather in September bodes well for grape quality throughout the country. Pfalz producer Dr Buerklin-Wolf predicts, ‘One of the best vintages since 1990 – if the weather continues to hold over the coming week.’ In the Rheingau Dr Franz Michel of Domdechant Werner’sches says, ‘We haven’t started harvesting from the best sites yet – we are now at the critical point and the success of the vintage depends on whether it remains dry through till early November.’

Picking
Weingut Robert Weil in the Rheingau and Dr Buerklin-Wolf in the Pfalz started harvesting in some sites during the second week of October. Mosel producers were a little later to start bringing in the grapes. Weingut Fritz Haag announced that some picking began today (14th October) although they will wait a little longer for the top vineyards to ensure optimum levels of ripeness. Signs of botrytis are already evident, although some producers are holding on to ensure high must weights.

Weather
June conditions were ideal, resulting in good fruit set. September saw the best weather in four years – dry and sunny with plenty vital cold nights. Dr Buerklin-Wolf reported a minor scare when some rain appeared in late September, but October saw the weather revert to bright, clear days and still, cold nights. July and August were warm with temperatures reaching 40 degrees centigrade on some days and sporadic rain showers lead to some early botrytis. Dr Buerklin-Wolf selected botrytis grapes from some top Riesling vineyards as early as the first week in October. The highlight was a Riesling TBA with 220 degrees oeschle. In the Mosel, Weingut Fritz Haag reports some early signs of botrytis but they are holding on to ensure higher must weights and hoping for dry weather. Domdechant Werner’sches reports that the last weeks of October will be important for building complexity and aroma in the grapes so continued dry weather is vital.

Ripeness
Weingut Robert Weil reports excellent levels of ripeness in the Reingau. ‘The grapes have been ripe on the vine for two weeks and if there is no rain before harvest it should be a very good year.’ In Franken Weingut Rudolf-Fuerst confirms that ripeness is excellent: ‘The vineyards are full of ripe, healthy grapes after the dry summer – we are expecting enough ripeness to produce auslese and trockenbeerenauslese wines.’ Weingut Fritz Haag confirms the same for the middle Mosel: ‘The grapes have a high level of ripeness and fine acidity.’

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BULGARIA
22 October 2002

Predictions
The vintage was beset by heavy rains and lower temperatures throughout August and September, and most wineries were forced to take action to stop rot and mildew taking hold. ‘To help guarantee the quality of our wines, our wineries provided various services to the individual grape growers,’ Vladimir Vlatchkov, chief winemaker at leading producer Boyar Estates, reports. ‘We sprayed against powdery mildew and downy mildew, for instance, and helped to get rid of any rot-infected bunches prior to harvest time. Hand picking of all bought-in grapes helped maintain quality too.’

Winemakers in the Rousse and Shumen regions of northern Bulgaria are anticipating a good vintage for Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. ‘This year, for the first time, the Rousse winery will process Merlot grapes from a single vineyard in a specific micro-region,’ head winemaker Alexander Velianova says. ‘The fruit will have a sugar content of 23%, and winemakers across the area are looking forward to some excellent results.’

Weather
As in other vine growing parts of Europe, August and September in Bulgaria saw heavy rains and low temperatures, although the country did not suffer the sort of devastation seen in northern Italy and the Rhone Valley.

Picking
The wet, cool summer meant that many growers picked a little later than normal. In the south, temperatures didn’t dip so low, and picking of the early ripening Chardonnay and Muscat Ottonel began on 18 September, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon following on the 22. According to Boyar Estate’s Vladimir Vlatchkov, the quality of the grapes in the Haskovo, Sliven and Chirpan regions is good. And while there was some early hail damage in Iambol region, it affected only a very small proportion of the total harvest, he says. In the north, the harvest began with Muscat Ottonel, then Chardonnay. Picking started on 22 September at a sugar content of over 21%. In the Shumen and Varna regions, the Chardonnay vintage is looking especially promising, and Dimiat, Rikat and Riesling in Shumen are developing well. In the Silistra region, Chardonnay, Merlot and Dimiat grapes are all looking good.

Ripeness
The wet, cool weather contributed to a relatively slow build up of sugars and acids, and the 2002s are expected to have good acidity and display better structure and finer tannins than the 2001 vintage. Some regions saw grapes achieving full ripeness at sugar levels lower than last year, which should produce smooth wines of more modest alcohol levels.

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