A hot, dry August produced very concentrated grapes in 1996. However, it turned a bit rainy in mid-September through early October, making the vintage less consistent on the Right Bank and in Graves. But as the weather turned glorious from early October on, it was an amazing year for later-harvested Cabernet in the Médoc. There was new ownership at Latour by this time, and a new vat room was completed just prior to the harvest this year. The 1996 Latour is medium to deep garnet in color with a profound earthy, meaty, gamey nose with hints of blueberry preserves, crème de cassis and pencil shavings. The palate is full-bodied, concentrated and packed with muscular fruit, with a firm, ripe, grainy backbone and epically long finish. Showing much more youthfully than the 2000 tasted on the same day and still possessing bags of youthful fruit in the mid-palate, this beauty is going to go on and on!
A spectacular Latour, the 1996 may be the modern day clone of the 1966, only riper. This vintage, which is so variable in Pomerol, St.-Emilion, and Graves, was fabulous for the late-harvested Cabernet Sauvignon of the northern Medoc because of splendid weather in late September and early October. An opaque purple color is followed by phenomenally sweet, pure aromas of cassis infused with subtle minerals. This massive offering possesses unreal levels of extract, full body, intensely ripe, but abundant tannin, and a finish that lasts for nearly a minute. Classic and dense, it displays the potential for 50-75 years of longevity. Although still an infant, it would be educational to taste a bottle. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2050.
Fifty-six per cent of the 1996 production made it into the grand vin, a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. It is a massive, backward wine that comes close to being a monster. The 1996 appears to be a modern day version of the 1966 or 1970, rather than the sweeter, more sumptuous, fatter styles of the 1982 or 1990. The wine reveals an opaque ruby/purple colour, as well as reticent but emerging aromas of roasted nuts, blackberry fruit, tobacco, and coffee, with hints of pain grillé in the background. Massive and full-bodied in the mouth, it possesses extremely high tannin, fabulous concentration and purity, and an impeccably long finish. This wine, bottled in July 1998, will require at least a decade of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2040.
The 1996 is a fabulous wine that should rival, and even eclipse the extraordinary 1995. The 1996 is huge, massive, it boasts an opaque ruby/purple color, as well as extraordinary, thick, monster-sized fruit, glycerin, and extract on the palate, an a finish that lasts for 40 seconds. In addition to being a classic Pauillac, it is a textbook Latour, with formidable power, compelling purity, and remarkable presence on the palate. The nose is just beginning to offer some of the minerals, roasted herbs, grilled meats, cassis, and blackberry character of this great first- growth. Full bodied and layerded, with amazing power and richness, but no sensesof heaviness, this is a wine to buy for your children.
The 1996 Latour is a wine that I often find overrated and did not achieve everything that might have been possible in this favourable growing season. That said, this might well be the best of around two dozen bottles I have encountered over the years. As usual, the 1996 is decidedly austere at first, standoffish, looks down its nose at you. Yet it coalesces with time and develops engaging cedar-scented black fruit tinged with pencil box and a touch of iris with time. The palate (again) is a little muted at first but it soon found its voice and evolved very fine tannin allied with a crisp line of acidity. It is not quite as demonstrative as it was even just a couple of years ago, gained some detail and perhaps it will continue to meliorate. Very fine, very fine indeed - but not a patch of say, the Château Margaux or perhaps even Léoville Las Cases. Tasted at the International Business & Wine Latour dinner at Ten Trinity.
The 1996 Latour was the first to be made in the new vat room that was completed in the nick of time before the fruit came in. Frédéric Engerer told me that they had no "Plan B" if it had not been ready! He also told me that the 1996 underwent little sorting and no green harvest. It was picked around 22-23 September. Now at 20 years of age, it has quite a complex bouquet that is approaching full maturity, laden with blackberry, charcoal, pencil lead and cedar scents that display impressive precision. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, well balanced with a keen thread of acidity. It is foursquare, correct and very "Latour": saline in the mouth with good depth towards the finish and this bottle showing a dash of black pepper and a hint of licorice on the finish. While not in the same division as say, Mouton-Rothschild or Château Margaux this vintage, it remains a splendid, if quite "serious" Latour. Drink this now and over the next 15-20 years. Tasted July 2016.
Nose wonderful, complex and open, developed yet youthful, mature damp earth and charcoal hints, dark blackcurrant fruit, cedar wood with cranberry and ripe black cherry, very complex and deep, just starting to open up. Excellent. Drink 2009-2026.Date tasted 7th July 09.
Mature rim. Inky mineral nose. Delicate, lively wine. Really racy. Very dry finish. A bit gawky. Drink 2008-20
Very deep colour. The bouquet was very closed but with good sugar. There was good acid and sweetness on the palate. 18.5pts. Lindsay Hamilton 16 Nov 01.
Black. Looks like a cask sample despite eight years in bottle. A huge, opulent, sexy nose - the essence of Pauillac, that soars out of the glass. On the palate this is massively dense, extracted and concentrated with a strong licorice and blackcurrant character. Ultra-ripe but not at all jammy. A wonderful example of density and structure in perfect harmony. Tasted later than the 1995, this does have even more intensity than that very impressive young wine. Powerful, a classic Latour that is just beginning to come out of its shell. Hugely impressive.