2002 Vintage Burgundy is the Best in Years

The 2002 vintage was terrific for both white and red Burgundy, the best since 1990. Consumers should snap up those remaining on retailers’ shelves because few are available from the wineries. And those that are will be purchased using dollars that are far weaker than when the 2002s were bought initially. Furthermore, prices for the 2003 Burgundies, a far less consistent vintage, will be dramatically higher because, in addition to the falling dollar, a small harvest resulted in half the normal amount of wine.

The best wines usually come from grapes grown in the best sites, those classified by French regulations as premier or grand cru vineyards, and are priced accordingly. But in 2002, even wines made from grapes grown in less-renowned vineyards have real character. Since pricing of French wine in general is based on location, this vintage allows consumers to drink excellent Burgundy without paying premier or grand cru prices.

The AOC (appellation d’origine controllee) regulations identified most of Burgundy’s villages and best vineyards in the 1930s. Santenay, the southernmost village in the Cote d’Or, the heart of Burgundy, was omitted during the initial classification because its wines were not considered distinctive enough. It received official status as a wine village and for its premier cru vineyards only in 1970. In the past, its wines had the reputation for rusticity, but today quality-oriented producers like Maison Louis Jadot are changing that.

Although Jadot purchased the Clos de Malte vineyard only in 1993, it has made excellent wine there for decades from grapes they purchased from the previous owner. Jadot planted some chardonnay in the Clos de Malte, but like most of Santenay, this is red wine (or pinot noir) country.

You can savor the extra dimension imparted by exceptional growing conditions during 2002 even in a wine from a non-classified vineyard, such as Jadot’s Santenay Clos de Malte. With red fruit intertwined with earthy flavors, it has for Santenay unusual suaveness. It is more distinctive than many producers’ premier crus and will go a long way in changing the perception of the village’s wines.

Maison Louis Jadot, Santenay Clos de Malte (red), 2002.

About $25. Distributed by Horizon Beverage Co., 800-696-2337.

January 20, 2005.