This was a second look at the '96 Bordeaux at a tasting at the Wine Exchange - Saturday, Feburary 27, 1999. Sixteen wines plus a warm-up white were poured for a tasting fee of $39.
The wines, in the order tasted:
'94 Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc - Pessac-Leognan. $24.99. Light
yellow color. Nose of citrus, lemon grass, and hay. Buttery citrus and
toast flavors on the palate, with excellent balance, and a long finish.
'96 Ch. Grand Pontet - St. Emilion. $28.99. Garnet ruby color.
Nose of sweet cassis, black cherry, shoe polish, with a hints of herbal
qualities. Sweet & sour fruit and flavors, along with somewhat thin
mouthfeel. Long, if slightly bitter finish.
'96 Ch. Clos Fortet - St. Emilion. $49.99. Garnet ruby, with purple
edged color. Nose of cassis, black cherry, plum, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla,
blueberry, and floral notes. Fleshy mouthfull of off-sweet fruit, with
cassis, floral,and blueberry flavors. Very good balance and long finish.
'96 Ch. Monbousquet - St. Emilion. $58.99. Medium-dark garnet
color. Nose of cassis, blackberry, shoe polish, and anise. Quite mouthfilling,
with big tannins, oak, and spices. The semi-sweet fruit clings to the
palate through the long spicy finish.
'96 Ch. Citran - Haut Medoc. $19.99. Garnet purple color. Nose
of cassis, carmelized brown sugar, anise, toast, graphite, vanilla, and
green leaf. Surprisingly complex nose for a Cru Bourgeois. Fleshy mouthfeel,
and mouthfilling semi-sweet fruit. A bit more complexity in the mouth
would've made this a major sleeper.
'96 Ch. Smith Haut Lafitte - Pessac-Leognan. $39.99. Dark garnet
color. Nose of cassis and blackberry, with leafy and floral qualities.
Fleshy medium-bodied mouthfeel, toasty off-sweet fruit, slightly hot finish.
'96 Ch. Rauzan Segla - Margaux. $59.99. Garnet ruby color. Nose
of cassis, anise, sweet wood, shoe polish, and just a hint of beet. Medium
mouthfeel, toasty off-sweet cassis fruit lasts through mid-palate, but
turns a bit bitter and sour near the long seamless finish. Sour/bitter
fruit on the finish was a letdown on this otherwise very nice wine.
'96 Les Fiefs de La Grange - St. Julien. $18.99. Purple garnet
color. Cassis, floral notes, and sweet sawdust make for an interesting
nose. Medium light mouthfeel, but quite tasty. Very good fruit, without
the sourness of many others in the flight. Really nice 2nd label wine.
'96 Ch. Talbot - St. Julien. $31.99. Very dark garnet color. Nose
of cassis, vanilla, anise, sawdust, and hint of beet. Substantial semi-sweet
fruit, with a fleshy and even leafy presence on the palate. Good structure
and obvious tannins, long finish. Could use a bit more chewiness in the
'96 Ch. La Grange - St. Julien. $39.99. Garnet purple color. Huge
nose of sweet cassis, black cherry, anise, and cinnamon. Wow! Big and
fruity mouthfeel. Nearly chewy sweet fruit. Fleshy and velvety on the
palate, the fruit is seamless with soft but still obvious tannins. Long
'96 Ch. Leoville Barton - St. Julien. $59.99. Purple garnet color.
Nose cassis, anise, show polish is slightly more shy than rest of flight.
Off-sweet fruit with fleshy and toasty mouthfeel. Full body, good fruit,
nice long finish. What's not to like here. A more effusive nose would've
made this a fabulous wine, if quite pricey.
'96 Carruades de Lafite - Pauillac. $28.99. Very purple garnet
in color. Nose of cassis, anise, beet, shoe polish, sawdust. Mouth is
fleshy and toasty, with off-sweet fruit. The beet aroma seems to come
through on the palate, but the wine is very delicious, even if slightly
lighter in mouthfeel than many others.
'96 Ch. Duhart Milon - Pauillac. $25.99. Garnet purple color.
Nose of cassis, anise, herbal and leafy qualities and toast. Nice, if
a bit sharp smelling. Sweet & sour fruit with a sour predominance
on its very long finish. Complex and tasty, but the sour fruit is a bit
'96 Ch. Pichon Baron - Pauillac. $46.99. Garnet in color. Nose
of sweet cassis, anise, with leafy and shoe polishy notes. Very mouthfilling,
with fleshy and fruity taste, good balance, and long fruity finish. Very
nice, if a bit light in weight toward finish.
'96 Ch. Lynch Bages - Pauillac. $49.99. Very dark ruby garnet
color. Nose of cassis, blackberry, and plum. Very fruity and fleshy in
the mouth, with semi-sweet and mouthfilling fruit. Touch of sweet &
sour quality to its very long finish.
'96 Ch. Lafon Rochet - St. Estephe. $29.99. Dark ruby garnet color.
Nose of cassis, toast, black cherry, beet, anise, and a shoe polishy quality.
Just flat out ...wow! Very fleshy black cherry fruit, solid mouthfeel,
chewy and delicious. What a fabulous wine! What a fabulous value.
'96 Ch. Montrose - St. Estephe. $n/a. Purple garnet color. Bright,
floral and cassis studded nose. Aromas of black cherry, anise and sweet
sawdust. This stuff actually smell thick, as well. Fleshy off-sweet fruit,
very good mouthfeel, super taste. My second favorite of the flight.
This was my second look at the '96s, four of which I'd tried last October. As it turns out, I liked the Monbousquet and the Smith Haut Lafitte a little better this time through, while the Carruades and Grand Pontet rated about the same as previously. I still think the Monbousquet is stratospherically priced (it's even gone up), while the Carruades has actually gone down in price. In general, I liked these wines better than the last group of '96s I tasted. This is probably due in part to the fact that some of the heavier hitters were in attendance.
The best bargain in the flight was the definitely the Lafon Rochet, which
I felt was also the best wine in the flight. Following that, the bargains
are more relative. I've heard of the Monbousquet being offered for less
than $40, and if so, this wine might represent a bargain. The La Grange
was a very nice wine in the $40 and under category, and its 2nd label,
the Les Fiefs, was a clear beauty at under $20. Add to this the Citran,
and there are indeed some Bordeaux for everyone.
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
'96 Ch. Lafon Rochet - St. Estephe. $29.99
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