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Bordeaux 2002 Vintage: A Report From The Union Des Grand Cru De Bordeaux

In addition to having the society connections of old family history, the Grand Cru producers of Bordeaux have an association much like the Napa Valley Vintners association or other coalitions of wine growers found in the United States. Like its Napa counterpart, since 1973 the Union Des Grand Cru de Bordeaux has served as a marketing, outreach, and advocacy organization to improve the visibility, accessibility, and reputation of the producers of Grand Cru classified wines in Bordeaux.

Each spring, the main producers of Bordeaux hold a week long series of events called "en primeurs" where journalists and critics from around the world arrive to taste the latest vintage of recently barreled Bordeaux wine. In recent years, such events have been taking place in the United States as well (albeit with wine that is already in bottles) -- most recently, this event that I attended last Friday here in San Francisco, which showcased 67 of the 130 Chateaux in the Union.

The 2002 Bordeaux growing season started out a little scary. The winter was very cold and a lot drier than many years in recent memory, bringing with it about half as much rain as expected. This lack of rainfall continued into the spring, though temperatures warmed to allow the vines to grow. June, however, brought with it cool and humid weather that interfered with the flowing of many vines, and the summer that followed was not as sunny as one might hope for given the cool start to the season.

However, towards the end of the summer, the weather was at least consistent and while slow, most grapes were able to ripen, and for those producers patient enough to wait, the end of the harvest season brought with it the ideal cool nights and warm sunny days that push red grapes especially to the point of optimum ripeness.

The resulting harvest was considered very good to excellent, depending on the appellation, and while fruit yields were low due to the winter and the thinning that was required during the cooler summer, in general it is deemed to be a good year, not quite as good as 2001, and certainly not the stellar year of 2000, but definitely above average.

My tasting upheld the general consensus, as I found a few outstanding and many very good wines to be had. Margaux was clearly the standout, with Pauillac and Pessac-Leognan following close behind in terms of overall quality.

For most of the reports I make of public tastings, I record here only the wines that I found to be worthy of note, but in the interest of completeness I am listing every wine I tasted (which equates to every wine on offer) at the event. I have highlighted a few favorites at the top and below I have grouped them by appellation. All wines are red unless otherwise noted. I have also tried to provide prices where they are available on the Internet.

Domaine de Chevalier, Pessac-Leognan: 9.5. $28.
Chateau Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Leognan: 9.5. $28.
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere, Pessac-Leognan: 9.5. $33.
Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Margaux: 9.5. $36.
Chateau Ferriere, Margaux: 9.5. $51.
Chateau Giscours, Margaux: 9.5. $35.
Chateau Lascombes, Margaux: 9.5. $38.
Chateau Suduiraut, Sauternes: 9.5. $45.

Chateau Siran, Margaux: 9/9.5. $22.
Chateau Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Leognan: 9.5. $28.
Chateau Poujeaux, Moulis-en-Medoc: 9. $28.
Chateau d'Armailhac, Pauillac: 9. $25.

And now the wines listed alphabetically, by appellation (AOC):

Chateau Carbonnieux (white): 8. $28.
Chateau Carbonnieux (red): 8.5. $26.
Domaine de Chevalier (white): 7.5. $25.
Domaine de Chevalier (red): 9.5. $28.
Chateau de Fieuzal (white): 8. $40.
Chateau de Fieuzal (red): 8.5. $55.
Chateau de France (white): 7.5. $??.
Chateau de France (red): 8. $??.
Chateau Haut-Bailly: 9. $40.
Chateau Haut-Bergey (white): 8. $??.
Chateau Haut-Bergey (red): 8.5. $??.
Chateau La Louviere (white): 7.5. $34.
Chateau La Louviere: 8.5/9. $??.
Chateau Latour-Martillac (white): 8.5. $??.
Chateau Latour-Martillac (red): 9.5. $28.
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere (white): 8. $?? .
Chateau Malartic-Lagraviere (red): 9.5. $33.
Chateau Olivier (white): 8/8.5. $??.
Chateau Olivier (red): 9/9.5. $??.
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (white): 8.5/9. $??.
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte (red): 9/9.5. $47.

Chateau de Chantegrive (white): 9. $??.
Chateau de Chantegrive (red): 8. $??.

Chateau Angelus: 8/8.5. $89.
Chateau Beau-Sejour Becot: 8.5. $44.
Chateau Canon-la-Gaffeliere: 8.5. $48 .
Chateau Deassault: 7. $??.
Chateau Figeac: 8. $55.
Chateau Franc-Mayne: 8.5/9. $??.
Chateau Grand Mayne: 8.5. $44.
Chateau La Couspaude: 8. $50.
Chateau La Gaffeliere: 7.5. $40.
Clos Fourtet: 8.5/9. $40.

Chateau Gazin: 8.5. $45.
Chateau La Cabanne: 8.5. $??.
Chateau La Conseillante: 8.5. $60.
Chateau La Pointe: 9. $??.
Chateau Petit Village: 9. $??.

Chateau Clarke: 9. $??.
Chateau Fonreaud: 8.5/9. $??.

Chateau Beaumont: 8.5/9. $??.
Chateau Belgrave: 9. $??.
Chateau Camensac: 8/8.5. $30.
Chateau Cantemerle: 8. $24.
Chateau Coufran: 9. $??.
Chateau La Lagune: 8.5/9. $35.

Chateau Greysac: 7. $??.

Chateau Chasse-Spleen: 9. $48.
Chateau Poujeaux: 9. $28.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac: 9.5. $36.
Chateau Cantenac Brown: 8.5/9. $32.
Chateau Dauzac: 9. $34.
Chateau Durfort-Vivens: 9. $50.
Chateau de Tertre: 7.5. $16.
Chateau Ferriere: 9.5. $51.
Chateau Giscours: 9.5. $35.
Chateau Labegorce: 9. $??.
Chateau Lascombes: 9.5. $38.
Chateau Siran: 9/9.5. $22.

Chateau Beychevelle: 9/9.5. $58.
Chateau Brainaire-Ducru: 8.5. $35.
Chateau Gruaud Larose: 8.5/9. $61.
Chateau Lagrange: 8.5/9. $32.
Chateau Leoville Poyferre: 8. $34.
Chateau Talbot: 8.5/9. $37.

Chateau Clerc Milon: 8.5/9. $38.
Chateau d'Armailhac: 9. $25.
Chateau Haut-Bages Liberal: 9. $27.
Chateau Lynch-Bages: 8. $55.
Chateau Pichon-Longueville: 9/9.5. $58.
Chateau Pontet-Canet: 9/9.5. $58.

Chateau Cos Labory: 9. $??.
Chateau Les Ormes de Pez: 8.5/9. $34.
Chateau Phelan Segur: 8/8.5. $28.

Chateau de Fargues: 9. $??.
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey: 8.5/9. $37.
Chateau Suduiraut: 9.5. $45.
Chateau Doisy Daene: 9/9.5. $??.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud