The Alsace Vintage Years

Year 2002

After harvest uncertainties, the satisfaction of a good vintage year

The climate

As opposed to the previous winter, the 2001/2002 winter was pretty harsh with the grounds remaining frozen throughout the whole month of January. Then with the succession of sometimes sunny and sometimes rainy periods over the spring period, the growth cycle got off to a slow start. After a regular budding in April, the vines pursued their normal growth. Thanks to very favourable temperatures during the month of June, there was grouped and consistent flowering throughout the whole wine-growing region, naturally resulting in early ripening for this vintage year as well potentially larger amounts to that of last year.

During the summer, the whole wine-growing region had alternating temperatures of either very hot or very damp. However, the ripeness controls undertaken from end of August to mid-September confirmed the relative early-ripening with an evolution comparable to that of the previous year. Considering the perspectives of large-harvest amounts, there were many professionals who undertook bunch-thinning.

The harvest

The harvest was certainly looking encouraging from a ripeness standpoint but foreshadowed certain obstacles related to bunch fragility and further sensitivity to deterioration mainly due to capricious weather conditions during ripening period. Despite assorted sector-specific health states, the sorting and know-how of wine-growers generally resulted in harvesting suitably-ripened grapes. Foresight for the weather conditions and technical savvy in the cellars, were more than ever decisive factors.

The harvest start dates were set at:

  • September 16 for Crémant d’Alsace appellation
  • September 30 for Alsace and Alsace Grand Cru appellations, with the possibility for each Grand Cru lieu-dit to set alternative dates
  • October 14 for Vendanges Tardives and Sélections de Grains Nobles indications,

but most of the producers preferred to postpone these dates for still wines to benefit from the sunny days at the beginning of October.

The overall harvest volume reached 1,223,000 hl, including a little over 1,013,000 hl for AOC Alsace, 165,000 hl for AOC Crémant d’Alsace and 44,000 hl for AOC Alsace Grand Cru. The production of Vendanges Tardives (10,000 hl) and Sélection de Grains Nobles (2000 hl) was slightly less than the previous year.

The wines

From a quality standpoint, professionals are very happy with Riesling which has some fantastic alcohol/acidity balance, hinting at great keeping potential. Sylvaner is well marked by freshness and Pinot Noir is very fruity. The harvest dates for Muscat, Tokay Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer were decisive for the wine quality.

CIVA: Interprofessional Committee of Alsace Wine
April 2003

Tasting notes

Grand Cru Brand Riesling 2002 - Claude Weinzorn

An intense nose with aromas of honeysuckle, smoke and camphor. A vigorous palate, generous on attack then very mineral-like with a present ripe acidity providing a solid structure. The finish is very long. A great wine with keeping potential. (Last tasted in May, 2010)

Gewurztraminer Oberer Weingarten 2002 - Rolly Gassmann

A racy, floral and spicy nose, the rose and pepper opening up to smoky touches. Roundness on the palate on attack, fresh with hints of candied citrus fruit and already an asserted smooth character. The finish is long, slightly acidic with great persistence of sweet sensations and fat. A wine which reached its plateau of maturity and which should be around for quite a long time. (Last tasted in November, 2014)

2002 is a charming vintage year which outshined the 2001 year for a while with its exotic character of aromas from rot, particularly for Riesling. If these wines appear fully mature today, their keeping potential is still less than those from the best of 2001, except perhaps wines from granite or sandstone soils.

Thierry MEYER
Wine Instructor, Founder of L’Oenothèque Alsace (independent wine resource centre

The Alsace Vintage Years

There are never two harvests which are alike! Each year, the different climatic conditions impose a natural framework which wine-makers learn to manage. The vintage year transmits these variations into the wine quality perception. It furthermore provides indications for how long it should age once bottled.

Review the last 20 vintage years and those which have entered into the legend of great wines: