I just finished what has to be one of the worst tastings I have done for the magazine in a long time—2002 Brunello di Montalcino. It was a shocker. Most of the wines were diluted and uninteresting. Even big names did poorly. A few exceptions existed but in general the close to 100 wines I tasted over two days were really weak.
I had my hunches that 2002 would not be very exciting when I rated the vintage 84–89 for the magazine. And this was based on a number of winery visits and barrel tastings at top names a couple of years ago. But the wines obviously have aged very poorly in cellars. Many taste tired already, with funky, cheesy and/or unclean characters, not to mention little structure, freshness or youthful color. The vintage is clearly 75-79 points. I have to make my final decision about an exact score over the next few weeks.
What happened? Nothing too unusual, really. It was a cold and rainy growing season and it rained during the harvest. That equals diluted and unstructured wines. I thought that most of the producers would make severe selections of grapes and wines, to come up with something good in the bottle, but that doesn’t appear to have happened. Moreover, very few “adjusted” their wines with a younger vintage, which is legal up to about 15 percent. “I didn’t want to waste my 2004 or 2005 in my 2002,” said one producer.
Apparently, most producers will sell their 2002 Brunellos for less than their 2001s (2001 was a great vintage). But I don’t think most can sell at any price. And Brunellos are now averaging $60 to $100 a bottle at retail in the U.S. market.
I think the most honest Brunello producers were those who decided not to bottle their 2002s. Why should any consumer have to buy the stuff when most are so poor? What a disappointment.