The 1996 La Mission Haut-Brion is an improvement on the previous vintage, though it remains a couple of steps behind the high point of the decade, which came two years later. This is quintessential 1996 Pessac, featuring scents of warm gravel and scorched earth on a nose that might be classic to some, but a bit dour to others with a penchant for more hedonistic wines. It’s a structured 1996, drier and more austere than the 1998, but there is good grip and delineation, if maybe just a little leafiness toward the finish. Over the years I have found a bit of bottle variation, and this example falls between the best and worst. Overall, I expected more given the vintage. Give this a couple of hours’ decanting. Tasted at the Vinous 1996 horizontal at Berry Brothers & Rudd. Drink between 2021-2040
Fully mature, with a big, fragrant bouquet of damp earth, weedy underbrush, asphalt, Asian soy, and ripe plums and cherries, this medium-bodied 1996 appears to be on a fast evolutionary track. It reveals plenty of delicious fruit, soft tannins and enough acidity to provide definition. I was surprised by how open-knit and mature this wine has become. Anticipated maturity: now-2020.
Healthy, shaded ruby. Smells strongly of cumin! Certainly attention-grabbing and distinctive... Sweet start to the palate and tannins well in retreat. Powerful, confident wine. Richer and more powerful than most. Drink 2004-14
It is true vin de garde, displaying a dense, opaque ruby/purple color, and a tight but powerful personality, with reluctant aromatics. This rich wine cuts a deep, medium to full-bodied impression on the palate, and appears to need 7-8 years of cellaring. It is atypically backward for La Mission Haut-Brion, but the wine possesses exceptional depth, and the smoky, mineral, dried herb, rich, chocolatey, berry fruit that characterizes this brawny, muscular wine.