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. (RP)
I drank this first at the château with technical director Eric Kohler, and then again with friends when I finished the text for Andy Katz’s The Club of Nine book. Both times, it blew me away. Still reserved at first, then the aromatics gently build in power, filling the room with the allure of still-warm ash from a crackling wood fire. The gentle beginnings of tertiary truffles curl out of the glass even though the tannins are still tight and powerful. On the finish, the menthol notes are striking as is the dark fruit register. A blend of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc, it is still so full of youth, a true mix of elegance and hidden power and gives you one of those moments that underline exactly why the First Growths are First Growths. (JA)
The beauty and balance of this are phenomenal. Seamless tannins and fruit. Full body yet so balanced and refined. Sweet tobacco and berries. Minerals and cedar. A beautiful wine. The depth is superb.
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. (NM) 97+
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. (ST) 96+
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 … (JS, Web Only-2007)
Looks (and tastes) SO much much younger and more purple than the Lafite 1995. Quite aromatic, very rich and ripe. Seductive. Very smooth. Almost formless for the tannins are well in retreat. Solid stuff that still has a way to go. Slightly inky. Much younger and more angular than the 1995. But it should come out of its shell very elegantly. (JR) 18.5/20 score
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