In the film Sideways, Miles praises Pinot Noir as thin-skinned, temperamental and in need of constant care and attention. In Pinot's ancestral home, France's Burgundy region, unpredictable weather makes the grape all the more fickle. In this northern climate, where two or three days just before the harvest can make or break a vintage, only three, maybe four years out of ten make outstanding wines. Burgundy in 2002 went better, not only rendering its best red vintage since 1996, but also becoming a classic year for whites.
I rate the Côte de Nuits red vintage 96 points and the Côte de Beaune white 95 points, on the 100-point scale of Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado's sister publication. Both wines are consistently fine across all appellations, and at the basic level of Bourgogne reds and whites, which can be lean in difficult years, 2002 was particularly successful.
Like all great Pinot Noirs, the best of the 2002 reds beguile with fleeting aromas and flavors of cherry and berry, with notes of forest, earth, mineral and spice for added complexity. Its texture varies from raw silk to velvet, and it can be robust or refined and lacy. This balance will allow the best bottles to age well for years, if not decades.
The whites, made from Chardonnay, combine peach, apple, pear, hazelnut and citrus flavors with mineral accents. The character of the vintage is purity, freshness, balance and ripe fruit. The very best wines transmit the place where they are grown more than the personality of the grape variety.
It was a remarkable year, considering that late torrents threatened ruin before a miraculous north wind dried the region, advancing maturity and concentration. The year yielded dozens of above-90 wines and few that were below average. Here are three of our favorites:
G. Roumier Bonnes-Mares (97, $120) A beautiful red, dense and broad, with black cherry, plum and mineral flavors. Shows an old-vine richness backed by firm structure, with ripe, fine tannins. Best from 2012 through 2025. 500 cases made. Louis Jadot Chambertin-Clos de Bèze (96, $155) An infusion of terroir and fruit highlights this intense, backward red. It's muscular, evoking cherry, tobacco and mineral aromas and flavors wrapped in its vivid, firm structure. Beautifully integrated, and a mineral component on the finish. Best from 2007 through 2020. 300 cases made. Ramonet Montrachet (97, $350) This is a brooding white, aromatically reserved but exploding on the palate. Opulent, harmonious and energetic, it balances elegance and power, intensity and subtlety, and has a long, long finish. Best from 2008 through 2020. 100 cases made.