Lafite Rothschild 1996

Pauillac, First Growth

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Tasting Notes

The 1996 Lafite-Rothschild is the strongest wine from the First Growth in that decade. This bottle, served blind and ex-château in Bordeaux, is so precociously backward that I estimate it to be half its age. Blackberry, cedar and graphite are here as usual, though this bottle has even more intensity than the one served at the estate in 2018. The palate is brilliantly balanced with fine tannins and very intense graphite-infused fruit; there's just a touch more fruité on the finish. Superb.

Score: 97

Neal Martin, Maturity: 2025-2065 26 January 2023

The 1996 Lafite-Rothschild is consistent with the bottle shown at the Hong Kong vertical. It has an intense bouquet with blackberry, cedar and a pencil box of graphite. The adjective I use whilst writing this note is that the aromas are cool. Perhaps given its provenance, this is one of the most backward bottles of 1996 that I have tasted. There are those fine but rigid tannins that lend this Lafite such beguiling symmetry, copious cedar and graphite with vein of brine and oyster shell. I love the precision of this wine and the sappiness on the finish. At the moment, maybe more impressive than enjoyable, so if you can, cellar it for another 5 to 8 years. Tasted at the Lafite-Rothschild 150th anniversary dinner at the estate.

Score: 97

Neal Martin, Maturity: 2025-2055 01 July 2018

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.

Score: 98

Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, Maturity: 2020-2050 28 October 2016

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.

Score: 100

Jane Anson, Inside Bordeaux Maturity: 2021-2038 24 November 2021

This is delicious, with the first nuances of tertiary notes - truffle, tapenade, leather, crushed mint, cold ash, pencil lead - just beginning to appear, but this is ageing extremely slowly, showcasing the trajectory that Lafite takes in the best vintages. So much freshness, tension, depth to this wine, it's hard not to fall in love with it. A vintage that I have been lucky enough to taste regularly over the past few years, and I strongly recommend it. There is huge concentration here, but everything is in balance. Charles Chevallier was 12 years in to his tenure as estate director at this time, expertly overseeing a vintage that saw a good early summer but rain at the end of August. Many observers wrote off the vintage at the time (particularly on the Right Bank, where the rain was heavier) but its success for Cabernet Sauvignon, and for Pauillac in particular, has become increasingly clear over the following decades. Harvest began September 24, 58hl/h yield. The first Lafite to be put in an anti-fraud engraved bottle.

Score: 100

Jane Anson, Inside Bordeaux Maturity: 2021-2040 17 September 2021

Gorgeous aromas of currant, berries and licorice. Full-bodied, with supersilky tannins and a long, caressing finish. Still holding back. People talk about this as one of the greatest Lafites ever, but I don't think so.--'95/'96 Bordeaux retrospective. Best after 2008.

Score: 95

James Suckling, Wine Spectator Maturity: 2008+ 01 January 2007

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.

Score: 18 - 19

Jancis Robinson MW, Maturity: 2010-2025 18 October 2006

Full, deep ruby, by far the darkest of these vintages. Knockout nose of great precision: cassis, black cherry, lead pencil, licorice, dried herbs and mint. Densely packed and extremely unevolved; a powerfully structured wine with uncanny precision and penetration. Finishes with powerful, firm tannins and exceptional mounting persistence. An infant, but a great Northern Medoc '96 in the making. Drink 2015 to 2040. (96+ points)

Score: 96

Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar 01 July 2002

Tasted three times since bottling, the 1996 Lafite-Rothschild is unquestionably this renowned estate's greatest wine. 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 all 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-Rothschild to be put into a new engraved bottle (designed to prevent fraudulent imitations). The wine exhibits a thick-looking, ruby/purple color, and a knock-out nose of lead pencil, minerals, flowers, and black currant scents. Extremely powerful and full-bodied, with remarkable complexity 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?

Score: 100

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, Maturity: 2012-2050 01 April 1999