Tasted five years ago @Les Conseillers du Vin, this reputed Burgundy vintage seemed at its peak. This time a new line-up (except for Corton Pougets) would help us confirm its evolution. Excellent vintage for whites and reds, the 1996 Burgundy harvest produced wines with great character, freshness, good extract and aging potential. Can they continue to evolve or are they starting to decline? Some tasted recently were still surprisingly fresh and well balanced.
Twenty years later, at Les Conseillers du Vin, we decided to revisit this 20 years old Burgundy vintage by tasting a selection of wines from reputed producers to verify the evolution of this excellent vintage.
As usual a group of 16 experienced tasters analyzed seven (7) red Burgundies plus a mystery wine in the usual blind tasting format. As previously mentioned we must keep in mind that winemaking techniques have dramatically changed since the mid 90’s and grapes today are harvested much riper. Wines from the 80’s and early 90’s offered from the outset higher acidity and firmer tannins. Wines from that era tend to be fresher, leaner and often more elegant. But in some instances, some wines can become a bit thin, aggressive and austere.
Results: 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.
Most of the participants seemed disappointed with the style and evolution of the wines. Many agreed the wines were at their peak with some starting their decline. The overwhelming favourite of the group was the mystery wine : Williams Selyem’s 1997 Pinot Noir Riverblock Vineyard Russian River Valley from California (36 pts). Finishing tied for second spot with 16 points were the Nuits St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Argilières from Daniel Rion and the Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes from Dominique Laurent. The disappointing wine of the tasting was the Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots Domaine from Prieuré-Roch. Unfortunately the Corton Pougets Grand Cru from Louis Jadot was badly corked. Too many Jadot wines from the 90’s have shown cork taint. My top three wines were: 1- Williams Selyem’s 1997 Pinot Noir Riverblock Vineyard, 2- Nuits St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Argilières Daniel Rion 3- Volnay 1er Cru Champans Domaine Vincent Girardin. See my tasting notes below.
The wines : Order of blind tasting:
1-Chassagne-Montrachet Domaine Jean-Marc Morey (Group score: 3 pts)
Evolved orange colour. Forest floor earthy tones, evolved nose with some floral and animal hints. Lively acidity, ready for drinking, should not get better. Quite elegant. Light bodied, medium length, very easy drinking. A delicate Burgundy at its peak! My rating: 89/100
2- Monthélie Domaine Paul Garaudet (Group score: 8 pts)
Showing orange on the rim. Typical complex nose with forest floor and leather scents. Also in a very elegant style. Some obvious acidity, but still well balanced. In a delicate light bodied style. Ready to drink. My rating: 88/100
3-Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Dominique Laurent (Group Score: 16 pts)
Lovely evolved nose, still a bit of fruit. Good balance, elegance, freshness, mature mouthfeel. Medium bodied, at its peak, should not improve. Easy drinking Gevrey. My rating: 90/100
4-Volnay 1er Cru Champans Domaine Vincent Girardin (Group score: 11 pts)
One of my favourite wines of the tasting. Some orange on the rim. Complex evolved nose, still a bit of fruit with forest floor scents. Refined ready to drink Volnay 1er Cru. Fresh, well balanced with good length. At its peak. My rating: 92/100
5-Pinot Noir Riverblock Vineyard Russian River Valley, Willians Selyem 1997, California (Group score: 36 pts)
The mystery wine of the tasting. Eight (8) of the participants identified it as the odd man out and nine (9) chose it as their favourite. By far the preferred wine of the tasting. Lots of typical ripe sweet fruit with forest floor, leather and floral overtones. Good extract and character. Ready to drink. My rating: 93/00
6-Nuits St-Georges 1er Cru Clos des Argilières, Daniel Rion (Group score : 16 pts)
Lovely wine, it ranked in the top three (3). Deeply coloured. Nose still offering fruit with earthy tones and charming complexity. Good extract, but remains elegant and fresh as expected from this vintage. Nice length, at its peak but can continue to age a few more years (2 to 3). My rating: 92/100
7-Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Suchots Domaine Prieuré-Roch (Group score: 5 pts)
The disappointing wine of the tasting! Seven (7) participants believed it was the mystery wine and six (6) classified it as disappointing. It was not oxidised nor corked. Its funky characteristics could be attributed to winemaking miscues. Disturbing nose of rubber and sulphur. The mouthfeel was typical of the vintage: light bodied and high acid. In a previous tasting of 96’s (2011), another wine from Prieuré-Roch showed similar characteristics. My rating: ??/100
8-Corton Pougets Grand Cru Louis Jadot (Group score: 1 pt)
Obviously corked. Many Jadot wines from the 90’s have shown cork taint. Could have been one of the best wines of the tasting! Deep colour and solid structure. Very unfortunate. My rating: ??/100