Pick My Next Bottle: 1996 Bordeaux

1996 Bordeaux

The January installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 1996 Bordeaux. As I mentioned in the July installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. I plan on opening the winning bottle on January 26 and publishing an in-depth Bottle Note on the 28th.

1996 was a classic year for the Left Bank. Robert Parker scored St. Julien, St. Estephe and Pauillac at 96 points. The hot, sunny and dry conditions gave the vines the perfect amount of stress which allowed the Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen perfectly. The wines are considered rich, concentrated and tannic.

A couple side notes regarding the vintage:

  1. There has been an ongoing debate about whether the 1996 vintage was better than 1995. The Wine Spectator has always favored ’95, while Parker has always favored ’96.
  2. Rains in late August really took a toll on the Right Bank and the wines are for the most part inferior to their counterparts on the Left Bank. In a way the vintage is the polar opposite of the ’98 vintage when the Right Bank excelled and the Left Bank did not.

The Contenders:

96 Pichon Baron – Pichon Longueville Baron’s 1996 has turned out to be even better than I thought from cask. The high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend (about 80%) resulted in a wine that has put on weight in the bottle. An opaque purple color is accompanied by beautiful aromas of tobacco, new saddle leather, roasted coffee, and cassis. It is dense, medium to full-bodied, and backward, with moderately high tannin, but plenty of sweet fruit, glycerin, and extract to balance out the wine’s structure. This well-endowed, classic Pauillac should be at its finest between 2006-2022. 91 points from the Wine Advocate.

’96 Lynch Bages – The 1996 exhibits a dark plum/ruby/purple color that is just beginning to lighten at the edge, surprisingly velvety tannins and a classic Pauillac bouquet of lead pencil shavings, cedarwood, black currants, sweet cherries and spice box. This medium to full-bodied, elegant, savory, broad wine is still five years away from full maturity. It should continue to drink well for another 10-15 years. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.

’96 Leoville Barton – This impressive wine is a classic. Although backward, it exhibits a dense ruby/purple color in addition to abundant black currant fruit intertwined with spicy oak and truffle-like scents. The wine is brilliantly made, full-bodied, and tightly-structured with plenty of muscle and outstanding concentration and purity. It should turn out to be a long-lived Leoville Barton, and somewhat of a sleeper. However, patience will be required. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2030. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.

As I was researching this post I could not help notice the disconnect between these great notes and the relatively low scores. I tend to steer clear of conversations regarding Robert Parker, but wine enthusiasts who claim score inflation might be well served to look at these scores vis a vis other strong vintages for the Left Bank.

Back to the business at hand.


Which 1996 Bordeaux should I open?

  • Lynch Bages (48%, 22 Votes)
  • Pichon Baron (26%, 12 Votes)
  • Leoville Barton (26%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 46

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the February installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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17 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle: 1996 Bordeaux

  1. Hi Tom,
    Pichon Baron got my vote, it’s my go to Pauillac one of the very best Cabernet based wines out there. IMO that is .

  2. I am SERIOUSLY jealous of this set of choices. All of them are mouth watering. Voted for the Lynch Bages since it may be the most ready to go. You’ve still got plenty of time for the Leoville Barton.

  3. I am a huge fan of Pichon-Longuiville Baron, one of the better (best) “Super Seconds” in my opinion. Lynch Bages is a great BDX, but does not compare with the Pichon Baron or Leoville Barton year in & year out.
    Terry Hill
    Texas Wineaux

  4. Went for Pichon Baron for selfish reasons: the other two I am very familiar with, less so the Baron. Nothing scientific here:))

  5. Tom – I’ve had the Léoville Poyfrere but not the Barton – delicious btw via ’86. Curiously, Léoville Barton has no actual château building on the property; the structure depicted on the label is that of the neighbouring Château Langoa-Barton. Placed in your position, I’d drink the Barton for the comparison, but failing that, it also comes packaged with a good story. Cheers!

  6. I have not actually tasted any of these wines as they are a little younger than the vintages I am drinking now. I selecetd the Lynch because of the consistent pleasure which this label has provided me over the years.

  7. My pick is the 1996 Lynch Bages. I tasted the 96 Lynch at year 10 and it seemed open and ready to drink way back then. So, at year 16, it should be in prime drinking condition. Leoville Barton and Pichon Baron age more slowly than Lynch does, on average. Part of the reason for this might be the winemaker’s style. Lynch seems to be made in a more approachable, earlier drinking style, than the other two wines, in my opinion. Leoville Barton is made to age at least 50 years and typically doesn’t start to open until year 15, on average (so this would be my last pick of the three wines). Pichon Baron is somewhere between these two wines in terms of drinkability, approachability, and ageability, in my opinion.

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