Haut Brion 1996

Graves, First Growth

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Tasting Notes

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.

Score: 95

Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, RobertParker.com Maturity: 2016-2050 28 October 2016

Tasted at Bordeaux Index lunch. The Haut Brion 1996 continues to shine as one of the estate's standout releases of the decade. There is something perhaps a little rustic on the nose at first, more "animally" than I have noticed on previous bottles. But it just oozes Graves-like fruit, hints of black olive, scorched earth and undergrowth. This is a nose you can lose yourself in. The palate is medium-bodied with a fine line of acidity, the tannins having just softened a little since two years ago. It is very elegant, extremely well balanced and there is a subtle, insistent crescendo that is utterly entrancing. This is an Haut Brion that is simply full of character. Superb. Drink 2015-2025. Tasted December 2013.

Score: 96

Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, RobertParker.com Maturity: 2015-2025 01 May 2014

50% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon. Looks more evolved than the Bahans. Wonderfully round and developed and subtle. More subtle than La Mission with a drier finish. Chewy end still there - and in with a fight. This does not seem to have fully unfurled yet and should make a great wine eventually. Putty and minerals. Still quite tight!

Score: 18 - 19

Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com Maturity: 2012-2030 01 February 2011

Lovely development. Absolutely classic transparent fruit in this wine which is just starting to take on weight.

Score: 18 - 19

Jancis Robinson MW, JancisRobinson.com Maturity: 2008-2020 15 August 2007

Gorgeous aromas of crushed berries, cigar box, black licorice and tanned leather. Full-bodied, with fine silky tannins and a medium to long finish. Seems a little tight right now. But refined and pretty. Nice for the vintage.--'95/'96 Bordeaux retrospective. Best after 2008.

Score: 93

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

Full ruby-red. Initially mute nose opened slowly to reveal complex aromas of raspberry, plum, hot stones, tobacco, saddle leather and toffee. Really explodes on the palate; lush and minerally, with a compelling note of woodsmoke and firm acidity. Wonderful combination of sweetness and vibrancy. Finishes very long and subtle, with firm tannins.

Score: 92

Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar 01 May 1999

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.

Score: 92

Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, RobertParker.com Maturity: 2008-2030 30 April 1999