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The Class of 2002

The Class of 2002 – Grand Crus

de vogue vieilles vignesWhite and red, the 2002 vintage was very well-received on release; the wines were judged accessible but not facile, a high average quality was generated – and not only by our usual friends at the better producers. Never being afraid to grasp the nettle (provided there are plenty of bottles to go round) I though it worth putting together this ‘early-days’ appraisal of the “top 2%” i.e. the Grand Crus.

Given the pretty awful growing season producers had to contend with, the wines are, frankly, stunning. But for the intervention of the drying north wind just a little before the harvest, there would have been a sea of dilute wines, many of them tinged with rot. It was a very lucky escape indeed!

For my taste, the average 2002 red is just slightly behind 1999, but that vintage could be the best in a generation – why should 1999 be better? Simple really, rather than being ‘saved’ by a few days of drying breeze (as was the case for 2002) the vintage was a little warmer and wetter than average, but with few real problems – provided the harvest wasn’t left too late – those that waited got caught in the rain and made somewhat more dilute wines than the average. Only the yields in 1999 give cause for concern – many producers applied for, and received, permission to produce 30% more than the normally ‘allowed’ yields.

So, whilst the average 1999 could possibly have been even better, it’s not all one-sided, the 2002’s are tasty, fleshy, fruity wines and quite friendly too. The top-end wines (as demonstrated in the following notes) are superb, and the precocious 2002 Musigny Vieilles Vignes of de Vogüé seems even better than the 1999 version.

The following wines were all drunk in a 3 week period in October – well it was around my birthday!:

the white wines
2002 Bertagna, Corton-Charlemagne
Medium-pale lemon-yellow, edged with green. Lovely depth to the nose, starts with a whisp of aniseed, leaving cream-edged citrus fruit against fresh bread. The beautifully clean palate is linear, ripe and sweet, and really expands from the mid-palate into the strong finish. No obvious oak influence, save for a creamy element. Very fine intensity. Young, obviously, but very tasty. A wine to drink now or save 5+ years.
2002 Bonneau du Martray, Corton-Charlemagne
Medium-pale lemon-yellow. A high-toned, slightly alcoholic nose that slowly turns from green to
yellow-skinned fruit. The palate already shows fine, soft texture and an impressive length. Sweet
from the ripe fruit with super balancing acidity. This is a very round and tasty wine that
shows a modest burst of fireworks on the mid-palate. Already the oak is mainly consumed – very
good Corton-Charlemagne. I’d drink this over the next 18 months and then leave the rest for 8+
years.
2002 Domaine Leflaive, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet
Medium yellow colour. The nose has depth combined with a high-toned top note. Lovely texture,
waxy without becoming cloying. Long, still oak tinged at the end. The mid-palate shows a
high-toned profile, somewhat mineral rather than fat. Very balanced and accomplished, but
missing a hint of excitement.
2002 Domaine Leflaive, Bâtard-Montrachet
The colour is just a faint shade deeper than the Bienvenues. Similar oaky depth to the nose but
rounder in shape, slowly lets some higher tones escape. An extra depth on the mid-palate, more
mouthwatering and certainly longer. This wine has tons of material and makes a compelling
statement – really excellent.
2002 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Montrachet
Tasted blind. Medium colour. The nose starts a little tight with some barrel notes, then marzipan, pear-drops slowly becoming a little spicy and creamy. The palate just makes you say ‘Ooh!’. It’s amazingly complex, long, long, long and ever-changing. Gorgeous texture, simply a tour de force. The multidimensional palate was exactly as I remembered the 2002, but the acidity seemed less gushing than when last tasted, so I made a flying guess at a lower acid vintage – 1997 – I was wrong it was the 02!
the red wines
2002 Hudelot-Noellat, Clos de Vougeot
Medium-plus cherry-red. The nose is wide, but starts rather indistinct – black skinned fruit
edged with vanilla slowly comes into focus – slowly tightening to show a meaty base. In the mouth
this is a lithe and interesting wine that shows super balance and medium-plus length. Very
good Clos de Vougeot!
2002 Dr Georges Mugneret, Echézeaux
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red. High-toned, a pure core of red-cherry perfume that’s underpinned with subtle spice, swirling accentuates the spice. Ripe tannins and intense red-fruit compete with acidity that needs a little taming. Tons of complexity and purity, fading from the mid-palate burst into the medium-plus-length finish. No shrinking violet this one, but the quality is quite aparent – save for at least 5 years before returning.
2002 Michel et Jean-Pierre Guyon, Echézeaux
A new domaine to me, but one that looks worth searching out. A medium-plus ruby red core in
the glass. Hints of black olive compliment the black-skinned cherry fruit on the nose, some
spicy pepper too. Medium density is the impression on the palate but wide and intense is the
fruit on the mid-palate. Interesting and complex though the acidity finished just a little
roughly at first – rounding with time in the glass. Medium, medium-plus length, complex and
with some nice sweeteness. Also very good Echézeaux!!
2002 Hudelot-Noellat, Richebourg
Medium ruby-red colour. The nose is quite tight, meaty with aspects of black fruit but gives
little away. You need to wait quite some time for more exuberance, precise red berry notes
slowly emerge. Plenty of grainy tannins and super length are the first impression, but what’s
missing is a little excitement. There’s still some oak apparent on the finish. Density
certainly, good mouth-feel and no easily spotted faults, but tonight it’s missing the spark.
2002 Hudelot-Noellat, Romanée Saint-Vivant
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red. Both depth and width on the nose, mixing meaty and red berry
notes, eventually coated with vanilla. Really super texture with density and acidity to match.
Finally a slight rasp to the tannins as they fade into the spicy and very long finish. Yes,
this is a real RSV – excellent.
2002 Armand Rousseau, Clos de la Roche
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red colour. A forward and expressive nose of vanilla-tinged red and
black fruit, a creme brulee note becoming stronger with time. It’s well balanced and finely
presented in an elegant, rather than powerful, way. Well made and tasty, though hardly
exceptional. Good-plus.
2002 Comte Georges de Vogüé, Bonnes-Mares
Deep cherry-red. A brooding nose that mixes red and black fruit, though black is dominant, with
a coffee edge. Concentrated and tannic. Starts on full power, a gradual diminuendo is the
character of the wine – well it couldn’t go higher! – fading very slowly into the finish. It’s
fully-packed with material and shows great balance. Not a hint four-square, but I wouldn’t
consider opening this bruiser for at least another 8 years.
2002 Comte Georges de Vogüé, Musigny Vieilles Vignes
Deep, saturated cherry-red. Wow, what a nose; the glass doesn’t even need a swirl to give up
chocolate and creme brulee covered red cherry-fruit – super complexity. The nose is well
matched to a beautifuly textured palate, incredibly complex flavours that cling to your gums,
fine tannins that are completely covered by the fruit. Magnificent now, I’m drooling at the
prospect of its 20th birthday!
2002 Armand Rousseau, Clos des Ruchottes
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red. The nose is a little tight, high tones over a tight red and
black centre. Wide and fresh palate, very elegant, fine tannins leave a soft coating on your
teeth and gums. Understated but very well read, this can talk to you on any level you wish.
Lovely.
2002 Armand Rousseau, Mazy-Chambertin
Medium cherry-red. A quite forward nose of creme brulee tinged red fruit. The palate is just a
little more panoramic than the Ruchottes, more explosive too. Actually this wine is heading in
too many directions at one time, much less controlled and elegant that the Ruchottes – which I
prefer. Again very fine tannins. A very different personality even though the vines are
separated by only 50-60 metres. I wouldn’t say no, but given the choice I would go for the
Ruchottes.
2002 Armand Rousseau, Chambertin Clos de Bèze
Medium-plus cherry-red. A wild mix of brambly black fruit and subtle oak toast on the nose,
gradually becoming higher toned with a hazelnut-coffee edge. The entry is smooth, then the wine
explodes on your palate before slowly shrinking into the very long finish. Lithe and slender in
complexion despite the evident concentration. Plenty of fireworks here – a very, very
impressive wine.
2002 Armand Rousseau, Chambertin
Medium-plus cherry-red. Creme brulee and red fruit presented in a very linear way. Takes a few
minutes in the glass to open out, but really starts to shout ‘look at me!’ – mainly barrel
influenced notes, coffee in the background too. The palate has an extra ‘fatness’ to the palate
vs the Bèze, fireworks here too, they build a little more slowly but to equal effect. It’s hard
to make a preference here – it can only be based on stylistic leanings – but today, with
fewer barrel artifacts and its more ‘athletic’ pose, I’d take the Bèze.
2002 Nicolas Potel, Chambertin
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red. The nose is high-toned and, initially, a little ‘clipped’; it’s very wide but takes quite some time to take on a rounder form. The palate is not about overt density or creamy, spicy oak, rather transparency and a fine burst of intensity that crescendos into the very long finish. Vs my memory of the cask sample, I’m a little disappointed (maybe it was a different cask) as that was one of the finest wines I’ve ever tasted from barrel. In isolation this is a very fine Chambertin with great complexty and and a wonderful finish. Excellent rather than great!
2002 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, La Tâche
Already lost much of its youthful colour, just a trace of cherry still at the rim compliments a
core of medium-plus ruby. Starts with a blast of fruit, becomes mute for a while, then starts
to show its wares; complex fruit laced with spice notes that you really only get with La Tâche
– almost ginger cake – just a trace of oak toast and smoky stems in the mix too. There’s an
understated entry into this wine before a fabulous burst of fruit rushes you from the
mid-palate into the finish. The soft tannins are buried and the acidity is just right. It
needs an hour from opening to blossom, but this was a stellar performance for such a baby.

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?