France 2002, continued

The further north and east you go in France, the better the story for the quality of the 2002 grape harvest. Producers in Champagne and Alsace are pretty happy and better quality producers in Burgundy where low yields and/or crop thinning have kept fungal diseases at bay are quietly confident (though are concentrating on praising the 2001s at the moment).

I spoke to an almost ecstatic Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux last Friday, 27 September, who was keen to scotch rumours than all is doom and gloom in Bordeaux. Like Britain, south-west France has been basking in an extended period of perfect pre-autumnal sunny days and cool nights in the second half of September. The low temperatures and a north wind have checked the spread of rot and helped to increase grape sugars at last. He was prepared to admit that 2002 probably would not be a great vintage, but it could certainly be 'good, or even very good'.

The hail in St Estèphe was apparently extremely localised. Or 'not nearly enough – there's still some wine left', as one of London's Burgundy importers put it to me when I asked if he'd heard how widespread the damage was.