1996 Haut Brion
By Chateau Haut Brion
1996 Haut Brion from Chateau Haut Brion, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux
Reflecting on the distinguished lineage of Bordeaux's elite, the 1996 Haut Brion from Chateau Haut Brion stands as a testament to a vintage that spoke the language of vintners and connoisseurs alike with resounding eloquence. The year 1996 was not merely a succession of seasons; it was a concerto of climatic precision, peaking in a harvest that delivered both gravitas and grace.
Resilience and Splendour: The Hallmarks of 1996
Bolstered by nature's benevolence, the 1996 vintage emerged as one of enduring charm and surprising resilience. Most striking in this exquisite offering by Chateau Haut Brion is its splendid architecture — a structure built on firm-yet-silk-like tannins, it carried red fruits and earthy tobacco across the years with a stateliness that only Pessac-Leognan's finest soils could bestow upon its offspring.
The generous sunlight of the summer months, followed by an optimal transition into the cooler temperance of autumn, sculpted a vintage imbued with ripe complexity. The poised equilibrium between acidity and fruit intensity in this wine ensures that over two decades later, we can still savour the supple narrative of its evolution.
A Rich Tapestry for Collectors and Connoisseur
A vigilant stewardship from bud break through to barrel has allowed the 1996 Haut Brion to evolve into a rich tapestry of flavours, encompassing vestiges of blackcurrant and plum, all elegantly laced with the estate's hallmark smoky character. Flashes of savoury spices bespeak its maturity, while whispered hints of truffle and leather allude to its aristocratic heritage.
This vintage holds a particular magnetism for fine wine investors — a serendipitous blend of superb quality, relative scarcity, and fascinating aging potential. As it continues to traverse the plateau of its lifecycle with remarkable dignity, few can resist the allure of adding such a jewel to their collection.
In an era where immediacy often trumps patience, the discerning investor will recognise in the 1996 Haut Brion from Chateau Haut Brion a rare opportunity: A vintage graced not just by temporal magic but conjuring an experiential alchemy that continues to enchant today's palate as assuredly as it did upon release.
Current market price
Scores and tasting notes
I have a lot of time for the 1996 Haut-Brion, which was tasted twice in the same month (albeit 5,000 miles apart!) Here it has a gorgeous, quintessential Graves-like bouquet with superb intensity, expressive dark berried fruits, woodland, a touch of garrigues evolving with time (although not anis this time.) The palate is full-bodied with firm, solid tannins that do not obtrude the fruit. Masculine in style with dried herbs, sous-bois, cedar and black olive, then demonstrating outstanding length on the finish. Excellent. Tasted November 2011.
Neal Martin - Wine Journal Jan 2012
While in some vintages La Mission Haut-Brion and Haut-Brion can be close in quality, that is not the case in this vintage. The 1996 Haut-Brion, a blend of 50% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and 11% Cabernet Franc is clearly on a higher plane than the La Mission. There is something much more expansive and complete on the nose: greater depth of fruit, more harmonious with scents of underbrush, tar, black olive and this bottle perhaps less "feral" than I have noticed on previous examples. The palate is very well balanced with dark cherries, sous-bois and cedar. This is one vintage where I think the Cabernet Franc plays an important role and lends more complexity. This is a 1996 that has retained and built upon beguiling fleshiness and it will continue to evolve with style and panache. Tasted July 2016.
Neal Martin - The Wine Advocate, 28 October 2016
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 utilized 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 down-graded the wine, although I am thrilled to own it and follow what appears to be a slow evolution. It will be a potentially long-lived wine. The 1996 exhibits a deep ruby/purple color, 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.
Robert Parker Jr - Wine Advocate #122 April 1999
Impressive nose of sweet tobacco with hints of prunes and black cherries. The palate is velvety, but it’s a little dull on the finish. Opens a little as the wine is in the glass. Served from imperial bottle.
James Suckling - jamessuckling.com, January 19th 2011