1995 and 1996 Bordeaux at 25: worth the hype?

1995 and 1996 Bordeaux at 25: worth the hype?

  • 1995 and 1996 are today every bit as great as we were led to believe
  • 1995 and 1996 will be every bit as great as we were led to believe, they just need another 5-10 years to attain greatness
  • 1995 and 1996 Bordeaux were overrated and will never live up to their billing
  • 1995 and 1996 Bordeaux were never really that hyped by the critics and are just about as good today as expected based on the reviews 20+ years ago.
  • -Bordeaux is never worthy of the hype.
  • -Bordeaux? Who drinks Bordeaux?

0 voters

At the time, the 1995 and 1996 vintages in Bordeaux were hyped to the heavens as equals (at last) to the great vintages of the 80’s but possibly even better because of ever improving viticulture, selection, vinification, standards and expertise. It’s funny to think back now how 4 mediocre-to-awful vintages in a row had made the wine world nearly desperate for another great year along the Gironde.

I bought into the hype and loaded up on both vintages. But for my palate these wines (talking about classified juice here) by and large have always been more about potential than current enjoyment. For a long time, this was fine with me as I am a patient collector who expects great claret in take 15-20 years to start reaching their potential. But as we move into essentially the 25th for these wines, I am beginning to wonder.

To be clear, I actually like many of these wines right now. But they still often come across as primary and (more worrisome) lacking the depth next to the great vintages from the 80’s at the same point. Do these just need more time, another “5 to 10”? Or were they never as great as we were lead to believe?

I am still hoping/expecting these blossom and deepen with more time, enough that we’re all at least satisfied, and so I’m still sitting on most of my cache of these vintages. What do you think?

I think it depends on the wine. What wines are you talking about?

I sold almost every 1995. But 1996 in the Left Bank, I think those wines are benchmark examples of Cabernet Sauvignon.

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If you’re ready to give up on the 95 Pichon Lalande, Lynch Bages, Cos d’Estournel or l’Evangile, please PM me! They are terrible wines, and should immediately be sold to a gullible sucker who bought into the ‘95 hype.

I generally prefer 1995 over 1996, with a few exceptions, e.g. the ‘96 Margaux and GPL. My tastes in red Bordeaux do lean more to the “classic” side though.

They’re not. They are overly acidic, too stern, and one dimensional. Even Latour and Margaux can’t shake the 96 signature that pervades the wines. I will withhold judgment on Lafite because I haven’t had it in a while, but most 96 left bank wines are getting worse these days, not better. They were more enjoyable 10 years ago.

I wasn’t a buyer at the time so didn’t experience the hype. But I like both of these vintages. ‘95 has been consistently good in the right bank, and some left banks like Pichon Comtesse de Lalande and Margaux have been excellent.

1996 is even stronger. These wines are good now if still quite fruity and youthful, but have plenty of structure to be good for a long long time. Ones I’ve had recent-ish (Cos, LLC, Ducru, Pape Clement, Pontet Canet) all are in the “great now, also should be great in a different way in a decade” place.

Timely post. Just had a 1996 Leoville Barton tonight that was excellent and a 1996 Smitht Lafite that was very good. I want more of that Barton.

I don’t have enough experience with these vintages to make generalizations, but have recently had ‘95 Trotanoy and ‘96 Ducru Beaucaillou and both were outstanding. A ‘96 Calon Segur a few months back was disappointing.

I won a mixed case of '96 Left Bank from Heritage a couple of years ago. Ducru, Duhart Milon, GPL, Leoville Poyferré, Montrose, Pichon Baron and Pontet Canet. All of them have been from very good to outstanding (and I still have a Ducru left), but the best value of the vintage so far wasn’t part of that case. Lanessan. Crazy good.

Haven’t had, it turns out, any 1995 except Smith Haut Lafitte, which was good but not memorable.

Good to read. I have a measly three bottle stash that I’ve been patiently waiting to crack open.

But that’s exactly the point! In some vintages Cabernet tends to fall short on muscle and acidity. Not in 1996! There’s enough power, structure and acidity with a great deal of fruit to back it all up.

I don’t know what might be the problem with your “one-dimensional” taste of 1996. If there’s one thing the 1996s I’ve tasted are not lacking in, it’s dimension.

For me 1996 is an excellent Left-Bank vintage and I suspect that some wines will prove to be better over time than their counterparts in 2000. In my experience 1995 has been very good for Right-Bank wines, although some have been over-oaked, etc, but only averagely good for Left Bank wines, with one or two exceptions. I certainly think that 1995 was over-hyped on release, for the reason Pat pointed out - at last something vaguely ripe! Some of what was said at the time was a natural reaction to that - after Covid, I’m sure the first concert for me will be one of the best I will have ever experienced! But also, some needed something to cheer about - what was the point of reading Robert Parker if every vintage was mediocre?!

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It’s always interesting to check what the broad fine wine drinking community thinks. Below are the top 20 wines for each vintage on Cellartracker for 1995, 1996 and the good/great vintages before. As you can see in the table below, the perception of 1996 and 1995 is closer to the good but not great vintages of 85/86 than to the very good to great ones of 89/90 with less outstanding wines (average rating >95). To see how they perform now (vs lifetime) only ratings of the past 4 years are included.
95 and 96.PNG


1995 Bordeaux was hyped because 91,92,93,94 were all from horrible to merely good. 1995 has a lot in common with 1988 IMO. This vintage is very different from lets say 1990, 1985 or 1982. If you love those ripe vintages you will probably not be a fan of 1988 or 1995. I see no reason to believe that the 1996 Left Bank Bordeaux are in decline. IMO many of them are still too young – as hard this may be to believe to some.

Generally these are the best vintages between 1990 and 2000, except 1998 right bank which is superior.
Left bank I often prefer 96, while right bank 95 is often better, but there are exceptions.
There are some really great efforts, but not that many … and there is certainly no hurry

I totally agree with Jeff on this one. I have never understood the hype surrounding 1995. It may be because it came over four mediocre vintages in Bordeaux and it was the tallest midget.

1996 is an excellent Cabernet vintage drinking well now.Only Latour is a unready, but if you are looking for really good mature left bank Bordeaux, this is a vintage to buy.

Alas, I cannot say because I sold all my ‘95-96. The only ones I remember drinking was immediately after receipt of futures, by plan, 2 buddies and myself had chipped in for a dinner and an early look at ‘95’s from Ducru, P. Lalande and Mouton. 2 of us thought they were spectacular and bought out the futures of the 3rd, who was a neophyte to Bordeaux and hated them.

You can’t say that. It’s “little person.”

Same here. I’m down to 2 cases of scattered bottles / mags / 3L of 1995 (and heading lower) but am happy to still have about 10 cases of 1996.
Think they will be good for a few decades yet to come and have always been great (the better ones of course) IMHO.
For me, Ducru B, Levoille LC, Pichon B and Pichon L, Margaux and Lafite.

I don’t recall that much enthusiasm for the '95s on release (apart, maybe, from relief at a vintage that wasn’t dismal) – certainly nothing compared to the enthusiasm for the '96s. (I’m thinking mainly Left Bank.) What did Parker say about the '95s at the time?

By 2000 or 2001, I think '95 was seen as OK but not an outstanding vintage. Am I forgetting something?

Wasn’t the Wine Spectator swooning over 1995?