1996 Latour

I had a bottle of 96 Latour last night with some delicious pasta. Given I didn’t decant it long–maybe only 30 mins–but I was still surprised by the result: I was ready for an enormous, fruit bomb of a wine. I still think of 96s as being big and young. But it was quite restrained. Still good, but not jumping out of the glass; not a bruiser. I went back and forth on whether I was disappointed at its lack of power or encouraged that it was more approachable than I expected.

Has anyone else had a similar experience with other 96s? Are they still looking like long ageing, ripe, powerful, tannic wines? Or are they headed for an earlier peak? And if so, how do you think that peak stacks up to other good vintages?

I am talking left bank here.

I had 96 Latour recently and had a very similar experience. It was really open for business, and showstopping good. Mouton is quite good, but needs the decanter help. Both seem like outliers though, as most wines have been crazy shut down. I wish I could report on the Lafite, but it was horribly corked.

I’ve got some 1996 Cos d’Estournel and Calon Ségur tucked away and have been wondering when to think about drinking them, it sounds like a while longer is the prudent answer . . .

I showcased a horizontal of 1996 left bank Bordeaux for my wine group two years ago. My notes from that tasting:

White Wine: 1996 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc
Great nose. Very pale yellow. Vibrant. So youthful. Opened up more as it sat in the glass. Amazing texture and mouthfeel

Bordeaux Bracket #1
1996 Haut Bailly
1996 Rauzan Segla
1996 Pichon Lalande

Haut Bailly was medium bodied. Very aromatic. Lead pencil shavings. Sauve. Seductive. Perfectly poised.
Pichon was glorious. Again medium bodied but super length and balance. Very classy wine. So seamless.
Rauzan was bigger but a tad angular. Ripe but a bit coarse. (perhaps brett effect??). Lovely to drink but not as compelling as the other two.
Opinions were divided between Haut Bailly and Pichon as to the best in that bracket.

Bordeaux Bracket #2
1996 Leoville Poyferre
1996 Leoville Barton
1996 Leoville Las Cases

Poyferre was the most open and ready to drink in this bracket. Fully evolved. More forward and hence more enjoyable on the day.
Barton was a bit more reserved. Impressive fruit. Earthy. Touch of aged meats. Just starting to show its character. Solid wine.
Las Cases looked like it was bottled only a few years ago. It looked the cleanest (i.e no brett). Very austere. Intense fruit. Fair bit of oak in the background but enough fruit to balance it. It was regal. Towering. Majestic. However, at that night it was not the most ‘enjoyable’ wine and was drinking on its potential which I guess could be decades from now.

Bordeaux Bracket #3
1996 Cos d’Estournel
1996 Mouton Rothschild
1996 Chateau Margaux

Cos was a huge wine just entering in to its drinking window. Black cherry, spice. Cedary. Voluptous but not as refined as the other two first growths in the bracket.
Mouton had power but better balance than the Cos. Dark chocolate and mocha. Expansive and mouth filling flavours. Extremely well made wine. Loved it.
Margaux was the undisputed WOTN. The bouquet was supreme. Voilets and roses. Truffled. Immense depth yet so light on its feet. The texture and finesse was to die for.

I’m enjoying the 96s from Leoville Poyferre, Leoville Barton and Calon Segur right now.

I’ve had one truly excellent bottle of 96 Pichon Baron and three middling bottles. It’s been a frustrating wine for me.

Jason, what are your thoughts as to where the Calon Ségur is on its aging curve?

IMHO Montrose is the wine of the 96 vintage.

I’ve very much enjoyed Lalande, Cos and Ducru 1996 in the last few years. Wines of power and depth, in the early stages of a long, beautiful drinking curve. I’m not in a hurry to drink my remaining bottles of these, will definitely be good for a decade or two. The 1ers are a different story - my single bottle of Latour, as well as a few of Margaux and Mouton, will have to wait for quite some time based on this and other reports.

Some good 1996s seem to be peaking now. Had great experiences with Leoville Poyferre and Pichon Lalande recently. I like what Kevin Shin calls the “youthful peak” when the wine is smooth and complex with secondary characteristics but still has substantial fruit, and that youthful peak is exactly what they were at.

I see others above have had good recent experiences with 96 Poyferre and Lalande recently too. Haven’t had any first growths, but Poyferre and Lalande are good / substantial wines so their maturity says good things about other wines too I would imagine.

It seems to be entering the early phase of maturity. I find the description Marcus laid out above to match my experiences with the 96 - complex, a nice amount of fruit with secondary development.

1996 Lafite was much the same for me.
Best, Jim