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2002 Rhone: Lemonade from Lemons
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed February 18, 2004. For more information go to

For all the romance that many of us attach to the vineyard and the winery scene, life often brings harsh reminders that the world of wine is ultimately about the gritty, hands-on reality of farming. So it was across much of Europe in 2002, when hailstorms cut a swath across Northern Italy while severe flooding ravaged France, Germany and Eastern Europe.

Few wine-producing regions suffered more than the Southern Rhone, where the stony vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-Pape were briefly navigable by rowboat after September storms, and many producers wrote off the vintage entirely.

But some Rhone producers salvaged grapes, and - for better or for worse - a few vintage 2002 wines of the region are now coming into the marketplace. Should canny consumers pass them by?

Not necessarily. Discretion is warranted in individual buying decisions, as is a quick check of published critics and comparing notes among wine-loving friends. (I can tell you that I, for one, will not be sampling any of the Vieux-Telegraphe White Chateauneuf-du-Pape that turned up recently at a local shop for a cool $50.)

But my early sampling of more affordable 2002 Cotes-du-Rhones suggests that, if they're on the light side in both color and body compared with their cousins from other recent vintages, they can be drinkable and appealing, and good with food.


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