The Great 2002 Bordeaux Tasting - a double triumph for Anthony Barton

Monday, 12 October 2009 by Stephen Browett

On Friday October 9th Farr Vintners held a comprehensive tasting of the 2002 Red Bordeaux vintage. We showed the wines of the 120 leading Chateaux which were served blind in 10 flights of 12. Our panel of experts included Jancis Robinson MW, Derek Smedley MW, Steven Spurrier of Decanter Magazine and Neal Martin of The Wine Advocate. We also had 2 winemakers with us, 4 Bordeaux "negociants" - led by the hugely experienced France Chauvin - and UK wine trade gurus Roy Richards and Barry Phillips.

Jancis Robinson and Neal Martin tasting and typing.

2002 is somewhat of a forgotten vintage and it seemed like the perfect time to taste them as even the top wines are now ready to drink.

We started in Saint Emilion with 2 flights. The first flight failed to get our hearts beating too fast but there were some decent performances from Canon La Gaffeliere, Clos Fourtet, La Gomerie and Monbousquet which were all involved in a 4 way tie for 1st place. The one "ringer" of the tasting - the Bordeaux Superieur Reignac - was only saved from last place by a fairly dismal performance (yet again) from Chateau Belair. Thank goodness this property is now under new ownership and is being re-vitalised by the Moueix family.

Oliver East and the French contingent.

The second Saint Emilion flight saw Chateau Pavie once again flex its impressive muscles and come out on top. This wine really is a champion performer in blind tastings. Even Jancis Robinson was impressed! There was also a great performance by the more elegant and sophisticated Canon which took third place ahead of much more expensive rivals such as Angelus, Valandraud and Le Dome.

In Pomerol there was a close race to the top spot as Petrus, Le Pin and Lafleur stood down to compete in the First Growth flight. In the end, La Fleur de Gay narrowly pipped Clinet, Clos l'Eglise, l'Eglise Clinet and La Conseillante to the post.

Pessac-Leognan saw a surprise result with a comfortable win for Malartic Lagraviere. There was a tie for second place between Domaine de Chevalier and de Fieuzal.

Barry Phillips, Jonathan Stephens and David Boobyer.

In the Haut Medoc appellation Bernard Magrez's La Tour Carnet was the winner, beating La Lagune into second place. La Bernadotte performed well to tie with Sociando Mallet and Cantemerle was a long way last.

Margaux was a slightly disappointing flight but it lacked Chateaux Margaux, Palmer and Rauzan Segla (which would appear in later flights). Most wines in this flight failed to average even 15 points and the winner, with a fairly unimpressive 15.3, was Brane Cantenac. A noteworthy performer was Segla (the second wine of Rauzan Segla) which beat the grands vins of several well known Chateaux.

With Cos d'Estournel and Montrose held back for the "super seconds" flight it was no surprise that Calon Segur enjoyed a comfortable win in Saint Estephe. Lafon Rochet, Phelan Segur and Meyney all tied for second place.

Steven Spurrier and Jancis Robinson pouring as well as tasting.

In Saint Julien there was a stunning performance by Langoa Barton which absolutely romped home in first place by nearly a whole point more than any other wine. It was the biggest victory of the day! Leoville Poyferré was second but this was a sensational performance by the moderately priced Langoa and a repeat of the shock result when this wine won the 2002 Saint Julien flight at the Southwold tasting in January 2006. This is a wine to buy with confidence!

The Pauillac flight was excellent and proof that this appellation really is the heart of the Médoc. 9 out of the 12 wines in this flight scored above the winner of the Margaux flight! There really were some good wines here with impressive performances by Les Forts de Latour, Grand Puy Lacoste, Clerc Milon, Lynch Bages, Armailhac and Haut Batailley. However, the shock winner was the Reserve de la Comtesse. This, the second wine of Pichon Lalande, is now at its peak of maturity and drinking beautifully whilst some of the competition are only just at the start of their drinking windows.

First growths.

The we came to the "Super Seconds" and what a flight this was! There were some really fabulous wines here. It resulted in a double triumph for the Barton family today with Léoville Barton taking the top spot. The deeply impressive Pichon Baron was second and Rauzan Segla did brilliantly to finish third - just above the famous 2002 Cos d'Estournel. There was a 4 way split for fourth place between Palmer, Pichon Lalande, Leoville Lascases and Pape Clement. All of these were excellent and highly recommended.

We finished with a First Growth flight split into 2 sections of 5 wines each. Amazingly all 10 wines scored between 17.1 and 17.9 so it is hard to say that there were any winners and losers here. In the right bank section it was Ausone (as per usual!) that fractionally beat Petrus and Le Pin with Lafleur and Cheval Blanc just behind. Of the official left bank First Growths it was virtually a 5 way tie with every one of them being someone's favourite except for Haut Brion which came just behind the Medoc big 4.

Only 204 glasses to clean...

After a marathon 4 and a half hours it was job done. 10 sheets of tasting notes, black teeth and a much better idea as to the quality, strengths and weaknesses of the 2002 Bordeaux vintage. If one had to generalise then I would say that the Saint Emilions were a little disappointing and the Pomerols slightly better (above 2003). In the Medoc, Pauillac is king but the villages on either side (Saint Julien and Saint Estephe) have several very successful wines. The most important conclusion is that every wine is ready to drink now and nearly all will give great drinking pleasure over the next 10 years and beyond at modest prices. 2002 is clearly not in the same league as 2005 and 2000. On the left bank it is not as good as 2003. Overall I would rank it behind the really good 2001 vintage but ahead of 1999,1998 (in the Medoc) and of course 1997. These wines can still be purchased at reasonable prices and I would strongly recommend, for quality and for value for money, the following wines - Langoa Barton, Leoville Barton, Pichon Baron, Cos d'Estournel, Rauzan Segla, Canon, Reserve de la Comtesse, Malartic Lagraviere, Domaine de Chevalier and de Fieuzal.

Please click here for our list of 2002 Bordeaux currently available for sale.

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