Buying Wine

Pick My Next Bottle: 1996 Bordeaux

The August installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 1996 Bordeaux. As I mentioned in the first 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 this coming weekend and will publish a Bottle Note shortly thereafter.

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. As the wines approach 20 years of age they should be well into their peak drinking window.

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 Leoville Poyferre – This fabulous 1996 was tasted three times from bottle, and it is unquestionably the finest wine produced by this estate since their blockbuster 1990. Medium to full-bodied, with a saturated black/purple color, the nose offers notes of cedar, jammy black fruits, smoke, truffles, and subtle new oak. In the mouth, there is impressive fruit extraction, a tannic, full-bodied structure, and a classic display of power and finesse. The longer it sat in the glass, the more impressive the wine became. Backward, and massive in terms of its extract and richness, this should prove to be a sensational Leoville-Poyferre for drinking over the next three decades. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.

’96 Clerc Milon – This is among the finest wines I have ever tasted from this estate. Lavishly oaked, with gobs of pain grille and rich fruit, it is massive and concentrated. The color is dense ruby/purple. The bouquet offers notes of roasted coffee, tobacco, and jammy cassis. Although surprisingly soft and opulent on the attack, the mid-section and finish reveal the wine’s full body, high flavor extraction, and moderate tannin. This complete, large-scaled Clerc-Milon will be at its finest between 2005-2018. 90 points from the Wine Advocate.

’96 Lagrange – This impeccably run, Japanese-owned property has fashioned a superb 1996. Opaque purple-colored, with a backward yet promising nose of classically pure cassis intermixed with pain grille and spice, this medium to full-bodied, powerful yet stylish wine possesses superb purity, a nicely-layered feel in the mouth, and plenty of structure. It will not be an early-drinking St.-Julien, but one to lay away and enjoy over the next 2-3 decades. Anticipated maturity: 2006-2022. 90 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 1996 Bordeaux Should I Open?

  • '96 Leoville Poyferre (39%, 11 Votes)
  • '96 Clerc Milon (32%, 9 Votes)
  • '96 Lagrange (29%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 28

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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 September installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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6 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle: 1996 Bordeaux

  1. 1996 Clerc Milon is my choice for “Pick My Next Bottle” because it’s the earlier drinking of the three contenders. The other two wines should be drinking beautifully as well, so you can’t go wrong opening any of the three. Cheers Tom!

  2. I’d so love to try any of these! Voted for the Poyferre. It’s a wine I have liked in other vintages. Love Clerc Milon as well though.

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