Here are the results of the 1996 horizontal tasting of eight (8) reds from around the world. During this blind tasting participants were asked to identify as many wines as they could. The person successfully identifying all eight wines would have received a gift certificate for a future tasting at les Conseillers du vin. Since no participant successfully identified all eight wines, a bottle of Champagne was awarded to the person who recognized the most wines. Our winner, Bruno Petrozza, identified four of the eight wines. Bruno is well known @Les Conseillers du Vin, participating to tastings for 15+ years. Congrats Bruno !
Results: celebrating their 26th birthday, most of the wines were at their peak. To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded to a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
Many participants agreed that wine # 8 CDP Beaucastel was showing some evolution, and starting to decline. Surprisingly the most youthful wine was #5 Eileen Hardy Shiraz from Australia. Even more surprising : the four top wines of the tasting are not from France ! The favorite wine of the tasting was wine # 7 Alion from Ribera del Duero with 23 pts, followed closely by the Eileen Hardy Shiraz with 20 pts. In 3rd and fourth spots we find wine #3 Summus from Banfi (16pts) and very close behind wine #4 Barolo from Azelia only one point back (15 pts). Both wines were showing good concentration, great balance with some remaining potential. We can conclude by saying that many 1996s are still alive and quite enjoyable, with some continuing to evolve favourably. My top three wines were: 1-Barolo Azelia, 2-Alion Ribera del Duero, 3-Eileen Hardy Shiraz. See my comments below.
The wines : Order of blind tasting:
1- Saumur-Champigny Domaine des Varinelles (Group score: 5 pts)
Colour starting to fade. Very typical nose of green peppers with some earthy tones (mushroom). Thinning out but still enjoyable. Quite elegant and easy drinking. Some lively acidity confirms it’s decline. My rating: 88/100
2- Château du Glana St-Julien, Bordeaux (Group score: 6 pts)
Some dark berry and chocolate scents with a hint of vegetal. Still sturdy with fresh acidity. On its plateau of maturity, drinking quite well! Hint of bitterness on the finish. Drink up! My rating: 90/100
3- Summus Sant’ Antimo, Castello Banfi (Group Score: 16 pts)
Deep colour, slight orange rim. Blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet and Syrah displaying good extract and structure. The Cabernet seems to dominate the nose with vegetal scents. On its plateau, but fresh acidity and some remaining tannins for more aging (2 to 4 years). Quite full and flavourful. My rating: 91/100
4- Barolo San Rocco, Azelia, Piemonte (Group score: 15 pts)
Typical of the excellent 96 vintage in Piemonte, this superb Barolo still has lots of potential for more aging. The wine shows great character in a more modern style. Deep colour, earthy and flowery, with hints of tar and ripe berry. Good structure, fresh acidity and well balanced. Lovely wine! My rating: 94/100
5- Eileen Hardy Shiraz South Australia, Hardy’s (Group score: 20 pts)
The second preferred wine of the tasting! This solid effort is well structured and should continue to evolve favourably for another 5 years. Quite rich and full. Lots of extract and good length. Surprisingly youthful! Acidification? My rating: 91+/100
6- Zinfandel Moore Earthquake Vyrd, Napa Valley, Turley (Group score: 7 pts)
Very pale colour, showing evolution. A bit on the light side for this producer. Seems to have faded rapidly. Surprising high acid content : a sign of decaying? Lacks extract (fruit) and length. Drink up! My rating: 88?/100
7- Alion Ribera del Duero, Spain (Group score: 23 pts)
The favourite wine of the tasting. Deeply coloured, quite youthful color. A very elegant full bodied style. Fresh acidity with good structure and extract. Mineral and floral terroir characteristics. Still some potential, drink now or over the next 3 to 4 years. My rating: 93/100
8- Châteauneuf-du-Pape Château de Beaucastel, Rhône (Group score : 4 pts)
The most evolved wine of the tasting and the least preferred. Going down hill rapidly, drink up! My rating: 87?/100
Photo: Ribera del Duero region