Haut Brion 1996

RegionBordeaux
SubregionPessac-Leognan
ColourRed
TypeStill


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Tasting Notes

Only 60% of the total production made it into the final blend, which consists of 50% Merlot, 39& Cabernet Sauvignon & 11% Cabernet Franc. This wine has completely shut down since it was first bottled. Nevertheless, there is immense potential. This is a relatively structured, backward style of Haut-Brion, without the up-front succulence that some of the sweeter vintages such as 1989 and 1990 provide. The wine has a deep ruby colour to the rim and a subtle but emerging nose of scorched earth, dried herbs, black currants, smoke, and a hint of fig. The wine is very concentrated, powerfully tannic, with medium body and outstanding equilibrium, but currently the wine seems to have settled into a very dormant style. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2035.

Score: 95Robert Parker, Bordeaux Book (4), December 2003

The backward 1996 Haut Brion was bottled in July 1998. Even administrator Jean Delmas was surprised by how closed it was when I tasted it in January. Only 60% of the crop was utilised in the final blend, which was 50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 11% Cabernet Franc. Out of barrel, this wine exhibited far more forthcoming aromatics as well as a sweeter mid-palate than it revealed from bottle. I had expected it to be more forward, and thus slightly downgraded the wine, although I am thrilled to own it and follow what appears will be a slow evolution. It will be a potentially long-lived wine, but I suspect it is slightly less successful than the extraordinary 1995. The 1996 exhibits a deep ruby/purple colour, and a surprisingly tight bouquet. With aeration, notes of fresh tobacco, dried herbs, smoke, asphalt, and black fruits emerge … but reluctantly. It is tannic and medium-bodied, with outstanding purity and a layered, multidimensional style. However, the finish contains abundant tannin, suggesting that this wine needs 5-8 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2030.

Score: 92+Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (122), April 1999

Haut Brion utilized only 60% of its production in the 1996 final blend (50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc). While it is undoubtedly true that the appellations of Pessac-Leognan and Graves were less successful in 1996 than the Medoc, the wines produced under the administration of Jean Delmas are brilliant in the 1996 vintage, continuing a trend that has made Haut Brion one of the most consistent first-growths in Bordeaux (consider the superlative performances in such difficult vintages as 1993, 1992 and 1987). The 1996 Haut Brion has put on weight, and was even sweeter and more fragrant in November than it was earlier in the year. The wine exhibits a dark ruby colour with purple nuances. Haut Brion's signature is most frequently its glorious perfume of tobacco, black fruits, smoke, and dried herbs, combined with sweet, supple fruit, all crammed into a concentrated wine that never has the weight or tannic power of a Medoc, or the thick unctuousness of a top right bank wine. It is never the biggest of the first growths but it is usually among the most compelling wines of this elite group, with the most profound set of aromatics of any of its peers. That being said, the 1996 should turn out to be an exquisite wine, perhaps slightly more structured and backward than the superb 1995, but very rich, with gobs of smoky, cherry, tobacco-tinged fruit, medium body, exceptional purity and equilibrium, and a long, moderately tannic finish. The tannins taste extremely sweet. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2030. Last tasted 3/98.

Score: 95/96+Robert Parker, Bordeaux Book (3), November 1998

The Haut Brion 1996 continues to shine as one of the estate's standout releases of the decade. There is something perhaps a little rustic on the nose at first, more "animally" than I have noticed on previous bottles. But it just oozes Graves-like fruit, hints of black olive, scorched earth and undergrowth. This is a nose you can lose yourself in. The palate is medium-bodied with a fine line of acidity, the tannins having just softened a little since two years ago. It is very elegant, extremely well balanced and there is a subtle, insistent crescendo that is utterly entrancing. This is an Haut Brion that is simply full of character. Superb. Drink 2015-2025. Tasted December 2013.

Score: 96Neal Martin, RobertParker.com, May 2014

Second bottle. Smells really quite evolved. Second bottle much cleaner on the nose – very fresh and brisk and confident. Strides along! Racy and muscular. Great balance. Should have a great future ahead. Very well balanced and long.2008-30

 Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com, May 2008

Sweet, very ripe nose. Round and charming. Great intensity but also subtlety. Dry finish. Long, captivating. Not the greatest clarity though - almost muddy. I kept on marking it down as it oxidised in the glass. Drink 2009-25

Score: 18Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com, September 2006

Score: 18.5Farr Vintners, 1996 Bordeaux Blind Tasting 8/9/2006, September 2006

Please note that these tasting notes/scores are not intended to be exhaustive and in some cases they may not be the most recently published figures. However, we always do our best to add latest scores and reviews when these come to our attention. We advise customers who wish to purchase wines based simply on critical reviews to carry out further research into the latest reports.