The 1996 Chateau Margaux, a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, must be a strong contender for wine of the vintage. It offers everything you desire from this First Growth. It is blessed with breathtaking delineation and freshness on the nose, understated at first and then blossoming with mineral-infused black fruit, hints of blueberry, crushed stone and violet. The palate is perfectly balanced with filigree tannin, perfect acidity, a wine where everything seems to be in its right place. Blackberry, crushed stone at the front of the mouth, just a touch of spice towards the finish that shows supreme control. This is a Margaux that seems to light up the senses. It was outstanding in its youth...something that has not changed one bit over the intervening two decades. This may well turn out to be the Left Bank pinnacle of the 1990s. Tasted July 2016. (NM)
Bright full ruby. Pure, perfumed aromas of cassis and violet. Dense and tactile in the mouth; a huge, chewy wine with major extract but also considerable refinement. Almost painfully backward today, and a bit less perfumed than it was in the year or so after the bottling, but the huge tannins show no hardness. Another great expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from the '96 vintage. 96+ (ST)
Fully formed now, with a rush of steeped currant and black tea notes that are melded with a backdrop of anise, sandalwood, bergamot and charcoal. The long, suave finish lets the perfume linger, with a weighty feel. This seems to mark the start of the refinement of tannins; despite the power, this is all grace and elegance.—Non-blind Château Margaux vertical (December 2013). Drink now through 2031. (JM, Web only—2014)
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