(by peter & susie)
It was Susie’s birthday so it seemed churlish not to take up the generous offer of fine wine merchant Bordeaux Index to taste some of the finest names in claret from the 2002 vintage.
This was a mixed vintage. A dismal summer was saved by a fine September – only those who put in the work and had due patience produced good wines.
The variability was clear in the wines. It’s difficult to generalise in such a heterogeneous vintage, but hallmarks seemed to be fresh acidity and firm tannic structures, without the opulent ripe fruit of more generous years (the fruit profiles here were generally red and tangy). Grainy finishes were evident in many wines – sometimes this went too far, into chewy dryness (Pauillac being particularly guilty of this over-extraction). Austerity might be an apt way to sum up this stylistic trait.
That said, the wines were showing nice evolution and maturity. Many need drinking up (with food). Only the very best showed the capacity to age much further.
The right bank fared pretty well, in our view, while left bank wines often suffered from over-extraction or flabbiness.
We didn’t agree on everything. As ever when we taste together, we like to publish both our scores, so you can get a full picture of both our takes on the wines. Our marks are annotated by taster (we didn’t both taste every wine).
One thing we did agree on was the fact that almost all of these wines were over-priced. We recognise that the pricing of top claret these days is governed just as much by investment forces as it is by other factors, but this usually has more relevance to top vintages rather than mediocre ones like this.
The end result tends to be perfectly decent wine but at an absurdly inflated price. Which can’t be good for the long-term future of Bordeaux.
- There were 59 wines in total at the tasting, representing all the major communes.
- Prices are as quoted by Bordeaux Index based on current market valuations. All prices are per case in bond in the UK (so add another £20 then 20% VAT to these to get the full cost).
- Bordeaux Index doesn’t necessarily have stock of all of these (many bottles were acquired just for this tasting). What they have can be found here.
- Wines are listed in roughly descending order of preference (with some duds included at the end).
Château Latour 2002, Pauillac, 13% (£4,400) – Has a plummy upfront fruitiness the others don’t. Under which a meaty, savoury, tobacco-fuelled complexity emerges. Open-knit but also dense and powerful. Brawny. Opulent, in its way, for the vintage. Very elegant as well as powerful. Exciting stuff. Susie: 8.5/10, Peter: 9-9.5/10
Château Haut-Brion 2002, Pessac-Léognan, 13,5% (£3,400) – really quite closed aromatically but the palate is another story: lovely dense deep flavours with a fine, firm, compact structure and wonderful balance. Needs to age yet before it unfurls. Susie: 8.5-9/10, Peter: 9/10
Château Clinet 2002, Pomerol, 13% (£450) – traditional style but brilliantly executed. Lovely earthy gravelly aromatics, dried flowers too. Concentrated, focused flavour profile with superb structure and scent, very refined. Delicious stuff at the level. Susie: 9/10, Peter: 8-8.5/10
Château Cheval Blanc 2002, St Emilion, 13.5% (£3,000) – very refined character here, packing in lots of flavour and structure but in a super elegant format. Limpid graphite and dark fruit aromas with an elegantly textured palate which is firm but fine and very persistent. Susie: 8/10, Peter: 9/10
Château Mouton-Rothschild 2002, Pauillac, 13% (£3,400) – lovely subtle but evocative scents, with notes of sweet spice, dark fruit and toast. Just starting to unravel. Real power on the palate, dense and lithe, with lovely finesse and grip. Very good. Susie: 8/10, Peter: 9/10
Château Lafite Rothschild 2002, Pauillac, 12.5% (£7,200) – we were split on this one. Susie saw it as closed and a little weak mid-palate. Peter saw more complexity and poise, with elegant texture and subtle graphite/cassis character. Susie: 7/10, Peter: 9-9.5/10
Château Angelus 2002, St Emilion, 14% (£1,500) – dense, leafy, smooth: glides across the palate. Very fine textured and engaging, albeit a bit spicy. Seems to have more in the tank. Susie: 8.5/10, Peter: 7.5/10
Château Margaux 2002, Margaux, 13% (£3,600, served en magnum) – Extrovert toasty, smoky nose with roasted dark fruit and dried flowers. The flavour profile is similarly punchy and effusive but lacking in real harmony. Lots here, though. Susie: 7.5/10, Peter: 8.5/10
Clos Fourtet, 1er Grand Cru Classé 2002, St Emilion (£520) – impressive perfume, blending toasty, leathery, roasted dark fruit elements. Fluid, meaty, savoury palate, perhaps a touch ambitious but intense and impressive. Susie: 8.5/10, Peter: 7/10
Château Léoville Barton 2002, St Julien, 12.5% (£530) – initially reticent but the palate is dense, fine and still really young given the context. Stands out for its muscular density and youth. In this range, excellent value. Susie: 8/10, Peter: 7.5-8/10
Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2002, Graves, (£650) – the kind of wine that will polarise people, with extrovert toasty, meaty almost feral hints and a succulent, fine palate. But we were both enthusiastic. Lovely evolution, wonderfully characterful. Susie: 7.5/10, Peter: 8/10
Château Clerc Milon 2002, Pauillac, 13% (£495) – punchy peaty aromas, with a juicy, meaty flavour profile. Spicy, individual. Susie: 7.5/10
Château Leoville Poyferré 2002, St Julien, 13.5% (£495) – elegant tobacco and red fruit aromas. Succulent, savoury, graceful. Not laser-like in its focus but nicely poised. Grainy finish. Peter: 7.5/10
Château La Mission Haut Brion 2002, Pessac-Léognan, 13% (£1,250) – creamy, chewy style, plush and ultimately lacking gravitas but very approachable and characterful. But pricey… Susie: 7.5/10, Peter: 7.5/10
Château Gazin 2002, Pomerol, 12.5% (£350) – fresh, elegant, dense: very drinkable. Fine but evident tannin, meaty and earthy aromas. Smooth and fresh. Susie: 7/10
Château Nenin 2002, 13.5% (£300) – spicy and broad style, impressive. Not really my favourite but lots of concentration in the context and good gravelly tannin too. Good. Peter: 7/10
Château La Grave à Pomerol 2002, Pomerol, 13% (£220) – grassy red fruit aromas, with a fluid, decent, persistent palate profile. Very good. Peter: 6.5/10
Château Haut-Bergey 2002, 12.5% (£180) – warm spiced plum and meat aromas. Soft and engaging. Lovely drinking wine, almost Rhône-like, very enjoyable. Happy wine! Especially at this price… Susie: 6.5/10
Vieux Château Certan 2002, 13.5% (£750) – jammy and tired, quite stewed on the nose. Palate is loose-knit and hollow, lacking gravitas. Almost oily in texture. Short. Susie: 5/10, Peter: 6/10
Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2002, Pauillac, 13% (£950) – Not very impressive: manages to be both a little flabby and tannic. Poor fruit selection and winemaking? Susie: 5/10, Peter: 6-5.5/10
Château Cos d’Estournel 2002, St Estèphe, 13.5% (£830) – broad and loose, with some odd reductive, stewy notes. A poor bottle? Susie: 5/10, Peter: 6/10
Château Petrus 2002, Pomerol, 13.5% (£13,500) – what can you say? At this price, with this sort of iconic reputation, a wine is always going to struggle against expectations. That aside, this is just a disappointing wine, irrespective of price and reputation. It tastes baked and porty. Yes it’s fine textured, savoury and relatively complex, but it’s also comparatively short and graceless. Maybe we’re just cheap dates… Susie: 5/10, Peter: 7-6.5/10