For those Burgundy bores of you out there (I am one sadly) you will all be aware of the debate regarding the 1996 vintage (I’m talking reds, the whites are a much longer discusssion). In barrel (en primeur) they looked outstandingly pure, fresh and fruit driven, but in bottle they have sometimes disappointed thus far, with their high acidity (backbone of ageing) and ‘crunchy’ fruit.
As we were a merchant who much lauded this vintage (I have more 1996 in my cellar than any other year) I have recently been trying them out at 15 years of age. We always said that they were keepers (we got that right), and now they are just beginning to show their (recently hidden) brilliance. In recent months I have tasted quite a few including a spectacular Rouget Cros Parantoux, a lovely pure Bonnes Mares from de Vogue, a superb Ruchottes from Rousseau (this is a buy any year if you see it), and a stunning Chambolle Cras from the delightful Ghislaine Barthod. In Hong Kong we also recently tried the 1996 DRC La Tache (delivered by the Chairman in the BA hold so not the best preperation) which was very youthful but beginning to unlock that wonderful and unmistakable DRC purity. It might not be a great year for generic Bourgogne Rouge and ‘Villages’ wines which can now look a bit lean (depending on the grower) but at the 1er Cru/Grand Cru level they can be superb.
I was moved to post this blog while trying a 1996 Charmes Chambertin from the brilliant Geantet Pansiot Domaine in Gevrey Chambertin (impossible to find – if you get on the wrong road you are toast).
They make fleshy fruit forward wines anyway (early bottling to preserve the freshness, and important to get the truck there early to avoid disappointment) but here the acidity is what makes this wine utterly brilliant. The glorious pure Pinot has been kept intact by the acidity that has wrapped up the clearly ripe fruit and is (only just now) delivering the early promise that we never doubted would come at some point. Now is the time to give those 1996s in your cellar a look, but I believe there is no huge rush to pull the cork as most of them will make even older bones. I have a few more bottles of 1996 Charmes Chambertin Geantet Pansiot in my cellar, I going to leave them to age a few more years.
Happy days for those who own 1996s and have been holding their breath. (PHEW)