2002 Bordeaux — A Headache for Growers
The 2002 Bordeaux wines are not as age-worthy as better vintages, but many have fleshed out and are now drinking very well. For growers, it was a truly difficult vintage — one of the coolest and wettest ever. Things started off on the wrong foot when a cold snap in late March delayed the arrival of later-ripening Cabernet buds. Flowering took place in terribly mixed weather conditions and the remainder of spring segued into a relatively poor summer, with little sunshine. August was rainy at the outset, but the weather changed later in the month, bringing warm, bright days with cool, clear nights that allowed the vines to catch up in the ripening cycle. The good weather continued into September and it seemed that the vintage might be saved, but it all came crashing down on September 20th when heavy rains soaked Pessac and the Right Bank and hail pounded the northern Médoc, undoing much of the progress made in previous weeks. Any Merlot that remained on the vines was picked immediately, while growers let slower-ripening Cabernet hang on until mid-October. Producers who did not keep grape yields to the bare minimum made green and diluted reds.
In general, top end wines seem to have fared better than the rest. For the reds, the Left Bank gets the nod over the Right, with the best wines coming from Pauillac and its surrounding areas. The wines from the Right are balanced and fruity, but lack some tannic backbone. St. Emilion and Pomerol show slightly softer and fruitier than others, with Cabernet Franc succeeding most overall.
A bright spot for 2002 is the dry whites. They possess a brightness of flavor and refreshing acidity due to the relatively cool summer. Sauvignon Blanc shows minerality with good acidity, while there is some greenness from under-ripe Semillon. Sauternes too produced a good, but small crop, of clean, spicy wines, with good fruit.
This is a vintage with some bargains to be found, but caution is advised. For the right price, an early maturing vintage could provide some very good drinking while waiting for the 2000s to come around!