I attended the Washington Taster’s Guild November dinner that featured a selection of 1996 Burgundies. At 15 years of age, it’s a great time to begin checking in on them to see how their evolution is going. Our host Roger Schagrin did a great job preparing the wines, orchestrating the tasting, and working with Poste to ensure we were looked after. Kudos to the staff at Poste as well - the food was well prepared and the service went off without a hitch. Flight 1
Our first course was a cauliflower veloute with sea scallops, tesa, and pickled mushrooms. This was supposed to be an amuse bouche, but was more like an appetizer. The Chablis stole the show for me.
1996 Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Referts- France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
Notes of honeycomb, vanilla bean, smokey minerals and subtle cream on the palate. Has a good deal of oak integrated into the palate, but it seemed a bit clunky giving off a dense smokiness on the palate. The acidity was impressive however as were the seashell tones on the finish. (87 pts.)
1996 Maison Albert Bichot Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Domaine Long-Depaquit- France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
Wonderfully fresh nose of seashells, minerals, lemons and herbs. The palate reminded me of the freshness and energy of a 2008 Chablis and not one with 15 years of age on it. This had some mature tones on the palate with a subtle honey note that was integrated well into a lean, focused body. Great wine. (93 pts.)
Served with coq au vin with kabocha squash and garden kale. Thought my chicken was slightly over cooked, but the wines were quite nice.
1996 Maison Bertrand Ambroise Nuits St. Georges- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges
This had an incredibly green nose with the burnt ladybug smell I grew accustomed to going to school in rural Ohio. Couldn’t get passed this note…very off-putting. NR (flawed)
1996 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Vignes Rondes- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru
Had nice complexity with spices, red fruit and a rusticity that I enjoyed a lot. Palate was medium-bodied, with layers of dried florals and dried fruit. Enjoyed the acidity on the finish - overall a balanced and almost mature Burgundy. (90 pts.)
1996 Domaine Daniel Rion et Fils Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos des Argillières- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru
Slightly more complex than the Les Vignes Rondes drank alongside. The nose was a bit darker, the wine a bit deeper with more personality. The florals were in balance with minerals and acidity. Thought this was showing a bit on the youngside, but is probably already within its drinking window. (91 pts.)
For flight number 3 we had beef bourguinon with roasted fingerlings and market vegetables. This was probably my favorite pairing as the slow cook beef and its sauce were the perfect compliment with the Santenay and Volnay.
1996 La Pousse d’Or Santenay 1er Cru Clos Tavannes- France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Santenay 1er Cru
One of the bigger surprises of the evening. This had an intoxicating nose of dried cranberry, spices, florals with a subtle earthiness. The palate had a series of flavors in perfect harmony; spices, red fruit, mushroom, and dried red florals. Great balance with nice finishing acidity. Probably the best Santenay I’ve had. (92 pts.)
1996 Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay 1er Cru- France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
Somewhat of a letdown after the exciting Pousse d’Or Santenay. The palate was a bit monolithic with plum spice and some red fruit. This didn’t have the tertiary earthiness that I usually enjoy. (86 pts.)
1996 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay 1er Cru Santenots-Du-Milieu- France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay 1er Cru
Such a lovely Volnay with dense florals and a wonderful mushroom brothyness to both the nose and palate. This had some oak on the palate but it seemed integrated and in balance. Finish had fine tannin and good acidity. Great stuff. (92 pts.)
In a bizarre twist, our final flight of reds were served with desert…not the ideal pairing in my opinion. We had a wedge of Humboldt Fog, a brulee fig with red wine reduction sauce and almond powder. I drank the wine before eating the desert…would have preferred these reds with the beef bourguinon.
1996 Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Au Velle- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
A darker nose with more masculinity to it compared to the previous flight of more feminine wines. Dark spices, cured meats and a somewhat dark fruit profile characterized this wine. Good balance and acidity on the finish. Very nice village-level wine. (89 pts.)
1996 Domaine Rene Leclerc Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Combes aux Moines- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru
Incredibly complex wine with years of life ahead of it. Nose had great spicy red fruit, mushroom broth, cured meats and dried red florals. Palate was smooth as silk with incredible dense flavors of meat, mushrooms and plum spice. Thought this had a ton of life ahead of it… (93 pts.)
1996 Domaine Ponsot Griottes-Chambertin- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Griottes-Chambertin Grand Cru
From magnum. Big, pure fruit with fine tannin, warm spices and mushroom undertones. A very young wine that will take a long time to soften up and mature. Until then, it’s a somewhat monolithic with the big red fruit really leading the way. (90 pts.)
A very fun night that showcased some very nice wines. Overall, I thought many of the wines we had were on the young side, so I will be interested to continue following these over the next decade. Posted from CellarTracker
Me, too , Dan. I think Combes aux Moines might be my favorite 1er cru in Gevrey, though I think CSJ has good potential too for that crown. Philippe Leclerc’s version has rarely disappointed. I loved the '96 at the wine shop in Gevrey in '99 or so, and bought some and lugged them back.
Matt…curious what the aeration was on these wines. '96 certainly needs plenty, even when good. (FWIW, I had a '96 Roulot “Meix Chevaux” last week that was dominated by acidity, even after lots of aeration; I think the fruit has lost the race, even though it is in the middle of the course.) The Sauzet I’ve had have been acidic but really good in that style. I haven’t touched any of the Rion 1er crus I have, but based on experiences with a couple of villages and your notes, I think I’ll continue to wait. This vintage is one that requires a minimum of 20 years, IMO, to show its potential…which can be iffy ,especially without food.
All of the wines were opened around 7pm and were slow-ox’d from that point on - the exception was the Ponsot which was put into a decanter. Here’s my best guess of the slow-ox times; course 1 - essentially pop and pour, course 2 - 30 minutes slow ox, course 3 - 50 minutes slow ox, course 4 - 70 minutes slow ox.
Additionally, a bottle of 1996 Confuron Clos Vougeot was opened after dinner that had been double-decnated around 4pm. Out of all the wines we opened it seemed to be the best out of bottle.
1996 Jean-Jacques Confuron Clos Vougeot- France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru (10/13/2011)
This had a couple hours of air and showed really well out of the bottle. Nice weight with spicy red fruit and minerals. Great mushroom and plum spice on the palate made this into a great wine. Out of all the wine we had this night, I think this was the closest to being at its zenith. Yummy stuff. (91 pts.)
IMO Lafarge needs much more time to show well, especially in vintages like '96. For the long term, stick with Chenes or Ducs…give them 20+ years and they are wonderful. I had an 83 Chenes at the domaine earlier this year that was spectacular. Having said that, given our ages, one would have to do some serious backfilling, as who knows what our palates will be like in 20 years.
There are lots of domaines that benefit from that mythical alchemy/pancea of “much more time” to turn into gold. They might well do so, but…I have avoided such domaines like the plague. I have not been willing to assume that risk…why bother…do they turn into something better than wines without that need can turn into?
I’d rather deal with surer shots…because at age “20+”, it’s just as likely that you’ll need to say “it needs 20 more years” at that time.
Time is not an alchemist…a cure all, necessarily. I guess it can be…but the question is which last longer : the suspense or the taster. (I had a Roulot '96 Meix Chevaux this past week; it was horribly acidic and devoid of pleasurable fruit. Some might say : give it more time. I say: this wine will never be pleasurable…why bother! I have 3 more bottles and , frankly, am not looking forward to “enjoying” them…)
I am not that interested in that inquiry…conceptually or in actuality. I used to think time was on my side…but the Stones were young once, too. I doubt they can credibly sing that one now…
Stuart, I like 1996 and if any vintage is going to be long lived, it is them. I don’t think everyone made great wine and most of the domaines above clearly not. I had a 96 Roulot Perrieres a couple of years ago and it was brilliant, a few years earlier it was almost impossible to like. I agree time does not miraculously turn a wine but I believe 96 is the most likely vintage for it to happen. Cheers Mike
I think I agree with you that 1996 is most likely, Mike. But, there are clearly some wines that just don’t have what it takes to improve with age. "96 is also “the most likely vintage” for that characteristic, too. A very tricky vintage…with tons of concentration in many cases. But, where it isn’t that concentrated: problems.
I certainly don’t disagree with you Stuart. I think another very important factor is what each individual collector prefers, in terms of age characteristics of their wine. For me, I prefer wines with age with the sous bois, tea, soy, silk and grace, etc, etc…that one gets with much older wines. Sure I like some fruit as well, but these other factors are more important to me. So, I am willing to take the risk of losing a wine here and there in order to achieve my wants. To me, to hit what I consider the ultimate wine experience, one cannot get it in a 10-15 year old burgundy. DRC is a perfect example of this. I certainly realize that many would feel exactly the opposite and prefer a more fruit dominant wine with elements of secondary character. There isn’t a right or wrong. That’s the beauty of collecting.
At our 96 tasting early this year, which had many more positive results, we gave the wines loads of air. they were slow oxed from midmorning, then double decanted 2-3 hours before the tasting. I’ll have to dig out the notes. I’m not nearly so down on the 96’s as some others seem to be.
Lafarge have some of the most gorgeous wine you can ever taste - from barrel. So many (good) people tell me I’m wrong that I put it down to my own bad luck (it also happend for a long time with Barthod for me - now hopefully ‘cured’) but I’ve never drunk a bottle of Lafarge and thought ‘wow’…