TN: 1996 Medocs (and 1 Sauternes) at Bobby Vans

Our Bordeaux group met at Bobby Vans steakhouse (midtown east location) Tuesday night for a 20 year look at the ‘96 Medocs ( I’m looking forward to the 30 year retrospective). Good porterhouse, good service, nice table without excess noise.

Ulysse Collin “Les Roises” Champagne
I think this was NV. Bigger styled, like a big Chard with bubbles, pears with a light nutty note, good finish. B+/B

Reds (in flights of twos)

1996 Ch. Lagrange
More open (probably most open wine of the night)I was in the minority preferring the Lagrange in this flight. B+/B

1996 Ch. Gruaud Larose
Cassis, lots of funk. With time I thought there was a metallic edge to the finish. But most people liked this over Lagrange. B-

1996 Ch. Leoville Poyferre
I liked this a lot, ripe cassis but classic notes of tobacco, cedar and leather. Young but fun to drink already. A-/B+

1996 Ch. Leoville Barton
Decanted right before dinner, this came out as a bit clunky/chunky. Wood tannin, somewhat muddied fruit. B-/C+
1996 Ch. Ducru Beaucaillou
This did not seem corked or cooked. But didn’t remind me at all of the (several) bottles of this I’ve had in last few years (and loved). No obvious flaws (other than a light sour/lactic note), but withdrawn and a little dull. B-/C+

1996 Ch. Leoville Las Cases
Big, powerful young, some cigarbox but mostly big blackcurrant fruit. Nice texture. A-/B+

1996 Ch. Cos d’Estournel
Structured, hard, probably good stuff underneath but hard to enjoy now. B?

1996 Ch. Calon Segur
(I need to go back to pen and paper. Phone auto corrected to Colon Sevareid) Sturdy, restrained, needs time. B?

1996 Ch. Pichon Baron
Burly but good. Muscular style, young. B+

1996 Ch. Pichon Lalande
Easily most elegant wine of the night. Young, perfumed, great mouthfeel. Delicious now, long future. A-

1996 Ch. Lynch Bages
By this point I wasn’t writing anything down, but I did like this, though young and primary. B+

1996 Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste
Also quite primary, though there was a nice Pauillac pencil lead note coming out. B+

1996 Ch. Suduiraut
This was a pleasant surprise to me, not much experience with ‘96 Sauternes but not something I had high expectations for. Honied botrytis notes, orange rind/marmalade, good acids, good finish. B+

Group Voting
Pichon Lalande 22 pts
LLC 15 pts
Poyferre 12 pts
GPL 2 pts
PBaron 1 pt
Calon Segur 1 pt
Ducru 1 pt

I thought the wines were very good, but drank more like they were 10 than 20. Fun night, good group

Grade disclaimer: I’m a very easy grader, basically A is an excellent wine, B a good wine, C drinkable. Anything below C means I wouldn’t drink at a party where it was only choice.Furthermore, I offer no promises of objectivity, accuracy, and certainly not of consistency.

Good info on the 1996 “vin de garde” vintage.
I got most of the tasted above, and feel the same… They taste younger than they are. Hold.
-Surprised to see the Ducru placing, -must have had some (heat) issues during its life ? Or a faulty cork ?


I loved the top 3. PB, GPL,and LB were good but nothing I would run out and buy today. Got some green on the Lagrange, Gruaud and Calon Segur and didn’t like these at all. Others were middling.

I think if I wanted one to drink now, it would be the Leo P. One that I would showcase would be the Pichon Lalande and the one I wouldn’t touch for another 10+ years is the LLC.

I was sorry to miss this dinner. Were the wines poured blind?

I’m happy to say that the two 1996 Bordeaux that I have the most bottles of are LLC and PLL, in that order. Given Paul’s comment about starting to drink the LLC in 10 years, I’m going to have to drink pretty fast at that point to get through all my LLC before it’s too late (for me, not for the wine).

No, Ben, the wines were not poured blind.

I was one of the few that thought that the '96 LLC slightly bested the '96 PLL during the dinner, but it was not based on current drinking status. Although, I’ll drink a nicely-decanted LLC today, I thought that it would be better than the PLL when it catches up in the evolution. The LLC, to me, had a little bit more going on in terms of power and structure.

Great notes, Dale!

We had the 96 Château Haut-Batailley Weds evening. Opened like a lovely California-styled Bordeaux with exuberant fruit and just very young/vibrant. 45 minutes later double black diamond decline into a thin Bordeaux Kool-Aid.

Weird bottle.

Thanks for the write up.
Your notes look not too dissimilar to ours when we had a 1996 Bordeaux horizontal tasting in may this year.

Thanks for the checkup. Not entirely shocked that they’re not turning to maturity, but wonder if they will be eventually in the mold of 86 or 75…?

For those that still have Wine Advocate access it would appear that Neal Martin has just released a brilliant retrospective along with tasting notes covering 1996 Bordeaux: Twenty Years On.

Thanks. I will check them.

What a great lineup. I’ve been sampling a bunch of these 96’s recently too.

It seems like decanting still helps them.

Sounds like a super showing for the Suduiraut too.

Out of that group of wines, what are people consuming sooner rather than later?

We drank a lesser 1996 the other night, one no one would ever bring to a tasting with big boys like these - the Château La Croix St. Andre, Lalande de Pomerol. Opposite bank, obviously, and not built with a mind to the kind of lifespan of the wines at your tasting, but a reference point for what’s drinking beautifully from 1996. A bit less depth than you’d find in a Pomerol, to be sure, but otherwise lovely, elegant and satisfyingly complex. I wouldn’t hesitate at all to visit something at this level from 1996 - so easy to open and enjoy.

We loved the 96 Pontet-Canet we had earlier this year, but the 96 Monte Bello may be Cab-based WOTV.

It’s a strong contender, no question. Haven’t opened one in a while. Hmmm…