Bordeaux 2002 At Fifteen Years

Moving on from my very recent look at the 2002 Loire vintage at fifteen years of age, I come now to 2002 Bordeaux at the same stage in its life. This is a vintage with which I have already had many tasting encounters and opportunities over these fifteen years, not least with wines from my own cellar. And indeed, it is a dozen of these wines which are the basis for this tasting report. Some I have included in other tastings before but some, such as the respective 2002s from Vieux Château Certan and Domaine Chevalier, I have subjected to the corkscrew for the first time.

Bordeaux 2002

What we already know:

  • A cool vintage, the wines leaner, acid-fresh and savoury
  • Parker skipped the vintage, and the wines were dirt cheap
  • Some critics advised drinking these wines in 2009, at just seven years of age

As always, what matters most is how the wines show, and any guidance (which you can extrapolate onto other wines, or not, as you see fit) I can come up with on whether the wines of this vintage are ready for drinking. Or indeed whether they should be drunk up with haste. Nevertheless, a few words on the season and harvest is usually worthwhile, in this case to serve as a reminder why this vintage turned out so many light and acid-fresh wines. The principal problems were damp weather during a prolonged flowering, followed by a depressingly cool and wet summer. Despite predicted low yields after that erratic floraison, the challenging summer and inadequate ripening forced conscientious growers to thin the crop, to ensure at least something ripened. The turn-around that saved the vintage came on September 10th, as from this point onwards there was warmer and very dry weather. Nevertheless, low nocturnal temperatures ensured that the higher acidities engendered by the cool summer weather were locked in place, and the style of the vintage was set. The wines have always tended to be leaner, acid-fresh and lighter in style.

Bordeaux 2002

The vintage had a lot to cope with. The 9/11 terrorist attack in New York the preceding year had perhaps dampened global enthusiasm for the finer things in life, and the critical opinions on the wines were not generally glowing. At least that is what the critics who tasted the wines said; Robert Parker, at the time the world’s leading critic, did not even travel to the region to taste the wines. While this was reportedly because his wife was worried for his safety (presumably she perceived air travel as more dangerous, it was not that a hostile reception awaited him in Bordeaux), many of course interpreted his absence as a comment on the quality of the wines. It was a very large nail in the coffin for the vintage, and the wines were sold off for a song. Within a few years Jancis Robinson relieved Parker of his hammer to put a nail of her own in when, in 2009, she declared the wines were ready for drinking. I never agreed with this assessment. The wines have always lacked texture, but they had tannins and acidity and I always felt they should be given the chance to develop some interesting secondary characteristics. Isn’t that is what Bordeaux is for?

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