Impression from a 1996 Champagne tasting

Last night I was able to attend a tremendous tasting put on by fellow board member David Gerstenfeld, who carefully planned out this great tasting, and the results were both great and interesting.

The line up.

Philipponnat Clos des Goisses (April 2006 disgorgement). This bottle was off, so notes withheld.
Dom Perignon
Dom Perignon Rose
Dom Perignon Oenotheque
Ruinart Blanc de Blanc
Ruinart Rose
Roederer Cristal
Pol Roger Winston Churchill
Taittinger Comtes
Billecart Grand Cuvee (any info on this wine is welcome!)
Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs (this has been a big time sleeper, and fit in very well)
Ployez Jacquemart (d’Harbonville)

Many of the wines continued to uphold previous impressions I’ve had. The Winston Churchill stood out to me, and not in a good way. This wine has continually disappointed me, and I can’t think of the last time I had bottle of the 96 that did. Dom Perignon continues to impress, and still has loads of life ahead of it. I thought this was a touch advanced over a bottle I had back in May, but was still great. The 1996 Oeno continues to baffle me a bit, but I would argue in a good way. I expect Oeno’s to be showy, and flashy, and ready for business, and this really isn’t. It’s restrained, poised to pounce, and should see better days in like 10 more years. Speaking of way too young, the Krug has furthered that yet again. This was easily the most restrained one I have had yet. The Ruinart BdB and the Paillard BdB continue to wow crowds every time, and also help remind me that these are great Champagnes.

On the ones I have less experience with to date, the 1996 Cristal was a run away winner. I don’t think I’ve had this since 2008, and it was quite closed then, but tonight, it was easily WOTN. Flashy, layered, long and just overall remarkable, this is a gem from this vintage, and still has 30 more years left. I think I’ve had the 96 Salon maybe 2 or 3 times, and always felt it was painfully young, but tonight it showed direction, something I don’t recall from the last times I had it. There was a ricey, sake-like sweetness to this that showed the promise that I love about mature Salon when it starts to taste like Grand Cru white Burgundy. The Comtes was paired with this, and it was by far the best bottle of 96 Comtes I’ve had (not sure why, but I run in to a lot of poorly stored bottles of this), and was a contrast of style to the Salon, but that was welcomed by the group. The smokey note in it was a touch off putting for me, but overall the wine was well made. The Ployez was a strange one for me, as this was the third time I had this. Others liked this a lot more than me, but I think this was a bit funky, and I don’t love that in my Champagne. The Billecart was fun, the only time I’ve had it, but it didn’t wow the way so many other did. I would argue it’s too young, but I can say that about almost everything we drank! I didn’t find either of the two Roses as enjoyable as other bottles I’ve had in the past, but in their defense, these were pretty pristine bottles that I think we just super young last night. By no means were they bad, I just didn’t get the same level of pleasure out of drinking them as much as I did a year and a half a ago.

Thank you again to David for putting on such an amazing tasting. Till 2026 when we need to do this again :wink:

What a great lineup!. Thanks for the notes

Nice! Thanks for sharing, that’s an event I’d have loved to have been part of.

Definitely needs to be replicated. The overall take away is that the wines are still young, and this will be an epic tasting in another 10 years.

Very nice, always enjoy seeing your notes.

I have not had the 1996 Churchill, but still your comments are a bit surprising. Not that I disagree with you (or would have any ability to do so), but I thought the 1995 was really good and it just seems weird they could succeed very well in one vintage and disappoint in the next one. I guess it happens.

Anyway, great tasting. Thanks.

I’m a big fan of most (older) vintages of Winston Churchill with '95 being the last one, although I haven’t had the 2004 yet. Their '96 is a disappointment to how good I think it should have been.
Agree on the Cristal and the DP and feel the latter is a better disgorgement than the Oeno. The Krug would have benefited by being opened a couple of hours in advance. I like the Billecart Grande Cuvee and surely could use some additional bottle age. I don’t think it is in the top tier of '96’s, but it is solid for sure. Somewhat surprised by your showing of '96 CdC as it has never really impressed me especially in comparison to the '95 or even the '99. However, a couple of people have told me how good recent bottles have been.
Would have thought the DP Rose would have been a star although when drunk alongside so many non-Roses, I can see how it could get lost.

Did you have food with the horizontal?

FIFY. Remember Ian was there. champagne.gif

I had a lot of fun setting this up. It’s something I’ve been thinking of doing for a long time. The hardest part was cutting down the final number to 14! I too was disappointed in the SWC, especially since the first bottle I opened at home was badly corked. It definitely was advanced though. The Clos de Goisses was a huge bummer as I was looking forward to this performing well. The last bottle I had 3 years ago was stellar. I thought the flight of Salon and Taittinger CdC was just outstanding. The Cristal blew me away as well, it had the perfect amount of fruit and acidity with a long lip smacking finish. I enjoyed the Ployez-Jacquemart more than others. It had this wild herbal element and had a funkiness that set it apart from the others. Unlike Ian I was super impressed with the DP Rose which was my first try. It had tremendous extract and vibrant energy, the most vinous Champagne of the night. It has a 50 year life span at least. Great night!

With regards to CdC, I agree with you that the 95 and 99 have been better wines overall, and this was by far the best showing I’ve had on the 96. The smokey quality was a bit odd, but didn’t totally obscure the wine.

Me too, I’ve had the DP Rose a decent amount since release, and this just wasn’t as showy.

Yes, a lot of fish with the wines, and it worked out perfectly. The Roses were done with a pork chop.

Here is a photo of the lineup:


Looks like a fun time!

Very surprised by the showing of the Winston Churchill. I have had the '96 Pol Roger Winston Churchill on many occasions and without exception it has been excellent.

Great data points, thanks. What a lovely event! Your observations on the '96 DP vs Oeno are interesting. I don’t think I’ve had an Oeno, and have always been quite happy just aging the regular releases.

once for me and loved it. Love Salon and Dom 96.

Gone through a case plus and always liked it with some bottles being slightly better than others

Same had it once and was really impressed.

What a line-up!

I agree, that the 96 Dom Oeno isn’t showy. At least not until it has breathed for 3+ hours. Then it strutted it’s stuff at a tasting a year ago.

I was blown away the one time I had the 96 Dom P Rosé. Sorry your bottle wasn’t up to par, but glad you have experienced it’s glory on other occassions.

A couple of weeks ago , we had the 96 Dom oenotheque next to the Krug ( 1996 ) blind . The Krug was unfortunately very forward tasting ( deeper color , some biscuit ,… ) while the Dom was young , pure and all finesse , we loved it .

Interesting note on the Berry Bros website :
Since 2014 , Dom Perignon no longer uses the term Oenotheque for it’s late released Champagnes , but the word PLENITUDE . This style represents DP Champagne that is left in contact with it’s lees and does not evolve in a linear fashion , but ages in a series of stages , producing " windows of opportunity , or " plenitudes " when the Champagne can be disgorged and released to bring consumers a different expression of the vintage .
There are 3 plenitudes in the life of a given vintage . : the first plenitude spans between 7 to 8 years after , which is then Dom Perignon Vintage is released . This is the P1.
The second one arrives between 12 and 15 years - which was previously the first oenotheque release but will now be branded as P2 .
The third window comes after around 30 years , when the Champagne has spend more than 20 years on its lees , which will now be termed as P3 .

I must admit , they are the kings of marketing in the wine business …

I have re-tasted the Krug and Salon this year and they have been superb. Enjoyed the Salon much more than Krug.

The Pol Roger SWC initially looked good up to 2010 but with passage of time they peaked too early and died.

May be my batch of Dom was probably not shipped correctly because they were never that impressive from the get go.