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:
- 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.
- 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.
‘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
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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