Mostly '96 Bordeaux
Tasting of mostly '96 Bordeaux and a few of the '95s - Saturday, October 31, 1998. Results from a tasting at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Seventeen wines were poured for a tasting fee of $35.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'96 Ch. Grand Maye - Cotes de Castillon. $8.99. Garnet ruby color.
Nose of cassis, shoe polish, hint of cedar, must, cinnamon, and clove.
Surprisingly complex nose, if also a bit thin. Soft and fleshy mouthfeel,
with a white pepper and cardboard taste. Astringent and only slightly
'96 Ch. Faizeau, Vieilles Vignes - Montagne St. Emilion. $14.99.
Garnet color. Nose of sweet cassis, black cherry, shoe polish, plum, and
anise. In the mouth, an initial feeling of sourness turns quickly to deliciously
sweet fruit. The wine finishes softly through a medium-long finish.
'96 Ch. Grand Pontet - St. Emilion. $27.99. Dark garnet color.
Nose of shoe polish, cedar,cassis, and ash, that is at once annoying,
yet interesting. Initially bitter fruit comes together better at mid-palate
and through a long finish.
'96 Ch. Moulin St. Georges - St. Emilion. $n/a.Dark garnet color.
Nose of cassis, sweet grass, and anise. Thick mouthfeel of chewy off-sweet
fruit. Fleshy mid-palate and finish, that still carries a residual sourness
'96 Ch. Monbousquet - St. Emilion. $56.99. Dark garnet color.
Very fleshy nose, that carries a veggie, meaty, grassy quality, along
with cassis and shoe polish. In the mouth, the initially narrow, bitter,
and even sour fruit turns a bit more friendly through mid and latter palate,
with additional flavors of meat, toast, and oak. Tight tannins. While
this is bound to improve, it'll hardly justify the price of admission.
'96 Ch. Le Bon Pasteur - Pomerol. $35.99. Dark garnet color. Large
and very concentrated nose of sweet black cherry, shoe polish, anise,
and a hint of juniper. Light on the palate, the sweet/sour fruit is nevertheless
'96 Ch. Reignac, Cuvee Speciale - Bordeaux Superior. $12.99. Medium
dark garnet color. Nice nose of cassis and shoe polish. Very young, tannic,
and significantly mouth-coating. Good fruit with no bitterness or sourness.
'96 Ch. Charmail - Haut Medoc. $14.99. Dark ruby garnet color.
Nose of shoe polish, celery, lemon grass, dill, and cassis. Thick mouthfeel,
but the slightly bitter or sour fruit along with a vegetal quality gives
nothing to look forward to.
'96 Ch. Smith Haut Lafite - Pessac-Leognan. $39.99. Dark garnet
color. Nose of shoe polish, celery, squash, ash, newsprint, and grass.
Very concentrated and tannic mouthfeel, the fruit nontheless is lacking
and the wine just seems to be without a lot of structure and flesh.
'96 Ch. Branaire - St. Julien. $31.99. Dark garnet color. Nose
of shoe polish, cassis, and cedar. Light fruit on palate, with decent
structure and long finish.
'96 Ch. Gruaud Larose - St. Julien. $48.99. Medium dark garnet
color. Nose of shoe polish, anise, juniper, and beet. Strangely interesting.
Nice fruit and mouthfeel. Long and slightly sweet finish.
'96 Carruades de Lafite - Pauillac. $31.99. Dark garnet color.
Nose of cassis, shoe polish and beet, with a few other veggies thrown
in for good measure. Don't know why, but it works! Good concentration
and mouthfeel of nice sweet fruit.
'96 Ch. Lynch Moussas - Pauillac. $21.99. Very dark ruby garnet
color. Very concentrated nose of cassis, with a fleshy, stemmy, and slightly
veggie quality. Sweet and chewy mouthfeel, but with obvious sour aspect
to fruit. Long and smooth finish.
'96 Ch. Calon Segur - St. Estephe. $n/a. Dark garnet color. Nose
of shoe polish, celery, bell pepper, and matchstick. Despite these nasty-sounding
aromas, the wine still has an interesting nose. Cassis and some veggie
in mouthfeel, but surprisingly fruity, fleshy, and chewy.
'95 Ch. Bellefont Belcier - St. Emilion. $28.99. Medium garnet
color. Slightly candied and even veggie nose of possibly overipe fruit.
Sweet mouthfeel of light fruit.
'95 Ch. La Croix du Casse - Pomerol. $27.99. Brownish garnet color.
Nose of shoe polish, cassis, and the barest hint of veggie. Slightly bitter
and toasty in the mouth, with nice balance and long, if light on the fruit,
'95 Ch. Grand Puy Lacoste - Pauillac. $67.99. Dark garnet color.
Nose of dusty fruit and shoe polish. Reasonably full mouthfeel of slightly
off-sweet fruit. Nice soft tannin finish.
This was my first look at the '96s. And thus far, there doesn't appear to be many standouts - at least not in this flight. The fruit in these wines was a lot more narrow, bitter, and sparse, than in the 95s. In addition to the lack of solid fruit, these wines seemed obviously veggie to me, mostly in the nose, but also frequently in taste. Although not completely unappetizing, these wines still couldn't be mistaken for top notch Bordeaux, either. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the prices for the '96s remain quite high, and any real bargains in the higher classes will need to be ferreted out. That being said, if the quality of the Carruades is any indication, the '96 Lafite should be a very nice wine.
Probably the best bargain in the flight was the Faizeau, which was as
good or better than several of the wines costing several times more. Following
that, the Lynch Moussas and Reignac represented a fair value for the price.
The rest? Well, they're Bordeaux, aren't they?
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'96 Ch. Le Bon Pasteur - Pomerol. $35.99
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