The 1996 Lafite Rothschild was spectacularly powerful and rich, somewhat atypically intense and concentrated for Lafite. It is a gorgeous expression of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon from this great terroir. Remarkably, only 38% of the production made it into the 1996 Lafite, and it is a wine for the ages. Still an infant, it is capable of lasting another 50 or more years. 100 points.
Tasted first at the château in July, then again at a Berry Bros supper in late November, and both time it effortlessly showcased why Lafite is one of the most sought-after estates in the world. Takes its time to open, even at 25 years old, but a bit of patience and you are rewarded with rosebud, tuffle, ash, pencil lead and crushed mint, all gently playing around the cassis, bilberry and blackberry fruits. There is huge concentration here, but everything is in balance, and you rejoice in the tertiary notes that give gentleness and juice to the overall feel. Charles Chevallier estate director at the time, Jacques Boissenot consultant. Harvest began September 24, 58hl/h yield. The first Lafite to be put in an anti-fraud engraved bottle.
Very intense nose and very obviously intense, ripe Cabernet. Essence of 1996 though not yet comfortable to drink. Very rich and intense and focussed. Long and reverberating. Drink 2010-25
Tasted three times since bottling, the 1996 Lafite is unquestionably this renowned estate’s greatest wine since the 1986 and the 1982. As I indicated last year, only 38% of the crop was deemed grand enough to be put into the final blend, which is atypically high in Cabernet Sauvignon (83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 3% Petit Verdot). This massive wine may be the biggest, largest-scaled Lafite I have ever tasted. It will require many years to come around, so I suspect a lot of us past the age of fifty might want to give serious consideration as to whether we should be laying away multiple cases of this wine. It is also the first Lafite to be put into a new engraved bottle (designed to prevent fraudulent imitations). The wine exhibits a thick-looking, ruby/purple colour, and a knock-out nose of lead pencil, minerals, flowers, and black currant scents. Extremely powerful and full-bodied, with remarkable complexity and for such a young wine, this huge Lafite is oozing with extract and richness, yet has managed to preserve its quintessentially elegant personality. This wine is even richer than it was prior to bottling. It should unquestionably last for 40-50 years. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2050. The wine of the vintage?
This is an extraordinary Lafite, possibly the finest since 1986 and 1982.The wine boasts an opaque purple color, as well as a fabulous nose of tobacco, lead pencil, minerals, and red and black currant fruit. On the palate, this is powerful, yet it has not lost any of its quintessential elegant personality. Medium to full bodied, with outstanding ripeness, layers of fruit, high tannin, sweet rather than astringent, and an exceptionally long, well-balanced finish, this wine will require a minimum of 10-15 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2014
The 1996 Lafite-Rothschild was remarkably deep in color considering that it is now 20 years in age. The bouquet is classic Pauillac with pencil shavings and sous-bois infusing the black fruit, masculine and a little aloof, yet focused and very well delineated. The palate is very well balanced with crisp blackberry and boysenberry fruit, spicier than I recollect, a crescendo of flavors so that it seems understated at first but fans out with a sense of confidence towards the finish. I think this still has more to give so cellar it away for another 5-8 years if you can, but otherwise this is an exemplary Lafite-Rothschild that I can envisage getting better and better in bottle, if not quite as enthralling as either Mouton-Rothschild or Château Margaux. Tasted July 2016. Drink 2020-2050