Wine writer Michael Schuster has spoken of his disappointment with the 2002 Bordeaux vintage.
Speaking to the drinks business in the wake of a 10-year retrospective held by Bordeaux Index yesterday (15 March), Schuster said he found the wines “quite difficult to enjoy”.
In his introduction to the vintage in the tasting sheets he had declared that despite a difficult year and “unfriendly” wines at the en primeur tastings, he was expecting to be “pleasantly surprised” after the 10 year gap.
But after yesterday’s tasting he had to admit that he was not, finding many of the wines still “very edgy” and with the structure still “dominating the fruit”.
He continued: “I found a lot of them to be as they were when I tasted them en primeur. Some of them are still drinkable of course but the world has moved on from that style. I had hoped for better but many were not very friendly”.
Continuing, he strongly questioned the vintage’s price to quality ratio, branding many prices “absurd” particularly when compared to vintages either side of 2002 such as 2001 and 2004.
The prices asked for by the first growths and cru classé of the Right Bank came in for particular criticism with Schuster saying that generally the price “has no reflection on the quality of the wines”.
Lafite especially at nearly £700 a bottle was disappointing and Schuster added that there were wines lower down the price ladder that were better value for their quality, the Barton and Las Cases stables in particular offering attractive wines as well as certain Pomerols such as L’Eglise-Clinet.
He added: “I would love to be super positive but it would be daft to be so. There are vintages such as 2001 and 2004 surrounding it at similar prices that deliver more harmony and pleasure and value for money.
“They’re not bad wines but there’s more accessible pleasure around. The price for quite a number of 2001s I bought at this time last year had risen by the autumn, I’m not sure will be the case for 2002.”
Tellingly, Schuster finished by saying that his wife – who had laid on an excellent array of food all day – had told him that when Bordeaux Index’s clients arrived for their tasting in the evening, one of them said: “The food’s much nicer than the wine”.
Bordeaux Index founder, Gary Boom, was in complete agreement. He told db: “It’s hard to see what will attract people to these wines. Frankly the price needs to come down for some of them to move and I think it will. We’re looking for the right price to quality ratio and equation is not quite right at the moment”.
Boom thought that there was probably “tons of it” left on the market as its relatively inaccessible youth had required cellaring. Now that 10 years have passed, he was expecting more of it to start entering the market place.
However, he did not anticipate that his team would be, “scurrying into the market to find this and that which we did with 2001 and will do next year as well.”
He still thought that there were some attractive wines at the right price and said: “If I saw a chunk of Bartons or others we thought were good at the right price I would push them.”
Overall though he thought this was a vintage that needed drinking and soon. For those wishing to sell it would be best to do so sooner rather than later.
From the tasting, db would recommend:
Barde-Haut, St Emilion – £225 a case (all prices by the case)
Clos du Marquis, St Julien – £300
Léoville-Las Cases, St Julien – £1,150
Léoville-Barton, St Julien – £530
Langoa-Barton, St Julien – £300
Vieux-Château-Certan, Pomerol – £750
L’Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol – £650
Haut-Brion, Mouton-Rothschild and Latour were the best of the first growths, Haut-Brion in particular. However, at respective prices of £3,400, £3,400 and £4,400 a case it was hard to justify why one should buy them over some of the other wines listed above for far less and as Schuster said when other small vintages are more attractive and the same price.
Lafite in particular at £7,200 a case failed to really impress. Palmer was an attractive wine but too expensive at £1,200 a case and Ducru-Beaucaillou at £900 was possibly the most disappointing wine on show – and a rare hiccup from what was generally a quite nice flight of St Juliens.