A blind tasting of wines from the 1996 vintage.
Two ringers were included: a Merlot from the Barossa Valley, and a 1985 St Julien.
Deep purple fading to pink/purple.
Slightly dumb, alcoholic nose with some herbaceous, perfumed plum and cassis fruit.
Light to medium bodied with sweet, spicy plum/cassis fruits and a herbal, tobacco finish.
Slightly dilute on the midpalate but pleasant now and over the next 2 to 3 years.
Very deep purple/red to ruby at rim.
Closed with obvious alcohol and some minty, plummy notes.
Medium bodied, rich and soft, with sweet cassis and tobacco flavours and a savoury, slighty bitter, tobacco and oak finish.
Rounder than the Batailley, with firmer tannins, this is drinking well now and should develop for 3 to 4 years.
Very deep purple/red, redding at rim - legs!
Perfumed, stewed cassis on the nose with some charred oak - still closed but plummy and deep.
Medium bodied with sweet cassis, tobacco and oak flavours, warm alcohol, and ripe, slightly submerged tannins.
Decent savoury finish with an acidic tang.
Very attractive now with food, but will last at least 5 to 10 years.
Opaque purple/red fading slightly and evenly to a deep red rim.
Lurking, but perfumed and attractive, with plummy, meaty aromas - obviously a real leap in quality.
Medium bodied with sweet cassis, rich, charred oak and tobacco flavours.
Rounded with firm tannins, good balance and a long, slightly hard finish.
Gorgeous, concentrated stuff for drinking between 2003 and 2010+.
Deep purple/red to deep red rim, viscous.
Warm, soft, savoury nose of plums and salt beef.
Medium to full bodied with rich, stewed, alcoholic fruitcake and cedar flavours, firm tannins and good grip.
Very attractive now with a long, deep, concentrated, tobacco/charred oak finish.
Drink now and over the next 5/6 years.
Deep purple/red to deep red/pink rim.
Much more restrained nose than the Monbousquet, with some cassis and plum.
Medium bodied with sweet, stewed berry fruit, very hard tannins and a reasonable, dry finish.
Closed and much less attractive at the moment, it should show very well given 6 to 10 years to open out.
Opaque purple with slight fading at rim.
Closed, but a bit of a monster on the nose, with stewed cassis, leather and alcohol, and salty, mineral notes.
Full bodied and intense with flavours of sweet cassis, vanilla and cedar.
Glorious mouthfilling texture, firm tannins and a long, dry, layered finish.
Drinkable now, but really deserves 10 to 15 years. An outstanding wine.
Opaque purple/red fading evenly to a deep red rim.
Lurking, alcoholic, complex nose with aromas of leather, tobacco, stewed plums and green leaves - impressive but young.
Medium bodied with juicy black fruits, tobacco and vegetal notes. Lots of charred oak.
Firm, submerged, tannins and good acidity carry through into a good, savoury, minty finish.
Almost drinking now, but outstanding in 5 to 15 years.
Opaque purple/red with some red/brown at rim.
Intense mint and cassis nose with peppery oak, vanilla and plenty of alcohol.
Full bodied with soft, sweet cassis and plum fruit and tarry, oaky notes on the long finish.
Much more obvious than anything else tonight, and quite different in style, but superb.
Drink now and over the next 3-4 years.
[I had the unfair advantage of knowing what this was when I tasted it. To my amazement, the rest of the tasters were happy to class it as 1996 claret, and weren't willing to say that there was a significant quality difference against the Haut Brion! Note that it was preceded by four Merlot dominated wines, and that the '96 Haut Brion has an unusually high Merlot proportion (50%).]
Opaque red/purple fading evenly to deep garnet.
A more restrained nose than the Australian, with a warm, deep core of leather, plum and cedar - serious stuff.
Full bodied with fantastic concentration and grip. Smoky oak and sweet, baked cassis/plum fruit flavours and hard, submerged tannins. Long, long, long with layers of flavour on the finish.
Needs 10 to 20 years, but amazingly good now. Fantastic.
Opaque black/red fading slightly and evenly to red/brown.
Lovely, developed nose (if a bit elusive) with a core of mushrooms, beef, cassis and tar - soft, elegant and concentrated.
Soft with a velvety texture and intense, developed flavours of cassis, leather, mushrooms and cedar.
Soft tannins and good acidity through into a long finish with flavours of plums, cassis and tobacco.
Soft and complex, this is drinking extremely well now, but should go on for another 5 or 6 years.
Fresh, light and attractive with aromas of grapefruit and hazelnut, and some creamy, honeyed notes.
Medium bodied with intense, fresh, sweet grapefruit, fig, spiced apple and toasted oak flavours.
Rounded and balanced with a long, honeyed, cinnamon finish.
Very impressive - probably at its best while fresh and young.