1996 clarets in the Médoc and Yquem at the Château
by Tom Cannavan, 08/97
As part of my summer holiday touring France I spent some time in the Médoc
and Sauternes and visited a few of my favourite Châteaux. These are tastings of the 1996s clarets from
barrel at the individual properties, and of Yquem at Yquem (a wonderful visit).
Château Mouton-Rothschild, 1er Cru, Pauillac
Wonderful dark colour and immediate scents of tobacco and dark
roasted coffee beans. On the
palate the impression of density and richness continued with great warmth
and very toasty, ripe tannins. Should be extremely good.
Château Léoville-Las-Cases, 2nd Cru, St-Julien
Dense purple colour, quite closed on the nose at this stage, but superb
cassis fruit and extraction evident on the palate. Hugely complex and
with great length and fine acid structure. Might take some considerable
time to come round, but will be superb I think.
Château Léoville-Las-Cases, Clos du Marquis, 2nd wine
Almost as deep as the LLC and showing very similar characteristics. More open at this stage with more vibrant
cassis fruit, cedar and vanillin oak flavours - but very well integrated and with great length. An absolute star
and representing good QPR. This estate de-classifies a huge proportion of the grand vin harvest, but even
this second wine includes only about 60 percent of the grapes reserved for it.
Château Potensac, Médoc, Cru Bourgeois
Very deep colour and rich spicy nose. Very muscular and chunky wine, with loads of grip and good
berry fruit. A simpler but very well made wine.
Château Cantemerle, 5th Cru, Haut-Médoc
Not just because I've already bought this "en primuer", but this was easily
the outstanding wine of the tastings when taking Quality/Price Ratio into
consideration. Cantemerle’s 1996 is simply a superb wine. Quite a high
percentage of Merlot in the blend gives a bold,
purple/black clour and a wonderful nose of blackcurrants, plums and
exotic spices (a small percentage of new american oak barrels employed
as well as limousin). On the palate a glorious, silky mouthful of ripe fruit,
firm but fine tannins and a sense of balance and purity.
Very good length with delineation and staying balanced and luscious.
Fantastic stuff - well worth considering.
Château d'Yquem, Premier Cru Supérieur, Sauternes 1989
Absolutely stunning. Vivid aroma soars from the glass of honeyed tropical
fruits. Very, very luscious with loads of glycerin. Flavours of dried banana,
apricot and peach. A lovely mineral, stoney acidity too, but overall a
heady, rounded mouthful. Amazing finish - well into minutes. This is further
evidence that just because the wine is capable of 50
years of positive ageing you shouldn't fear drinking it much younger. This
is a superb, totally satisfying, obviously very special wine now - it will be
great and no doubt different in 30 years, but it is also great now. Incidentally,
The Cellar Master said he thought the '89 was better than '88 or '90.