Red, Ready, but will keep

1996 Ch. la Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

1996 Ch. la Mission Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan

Red | Ready, but will keep | Code:  599 | 1996 | France > Bordeaux > Pessac-Leognan | Cab.Sauvignon Blend | Medium-Full Bodied, Dry | 13.5 % alcohol

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Scores and Reviews

The Wine Advocate

88/100

Parker

90/100

The Wine Advocate - Tasted at the chteau, the 1996 La Mission Haut Brion does not quite deliver the sense of confidence on the nose exuded by the likes of say, Chteau Margaux or Chteau Lafite-Rothschild. There is quite a marked Asian influence here and at 20 years old there is that conspicuous soy-like accent that permeates the red and black fruit -- red plums and a touch of orange blossom. There is something sedate about the aromatics, perhaps reclining too much in its comfy armchair. The palate is slightly better than the aromatics with fine tannin, though there is still some hardness here, a little static. This is a resolutely foursquare and conservative La Mission Haut-Brion that certainly lacks the depth and density of the best 1986s, partly because there is more Merlot in the blend (61% with 39% Cabernet Sauvignon). There is something ... anachronistic about this La Mission, a vintage I feel that is surpassed by many others conjured by either Jean-Bernard or Jean-Philippe Delmas. File alongside the 1996 Cheval Blanc as could have done better. Tasted July 2016.
Neal Martin - 28/10/2016

Parker - Fully mature, with a big, fragrant bouquet of damp earth, weedy underbrush, asphalt, Asian soy, and ripe plums and cherries, this medium-bodied 1996 appears to be on a fast evolutionary track. It reveals plenty of delicious fruit, soft tannins and enough acidity to provide definition. I was surprised by how open-knit and mature this wine has become. Anticipated maturity: now-2020.
Robert Parker - Wine Advocate #202 Aug 2012

The Grape

Cab.Sauvignon Blend

Cab.Sauvignon Blend

Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.

In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and  Australia.

The Region

Pessac-Leognan

Pessac-Leognan

In 1986 a new communal district was created within Graves, in Bordeaux,  based on the districts of Pessac and Léognan, the first of which lies within the suburbs of the city. Essentially this came about through pressure from Pessac-Léognan vignerons, who wished to disassociate themselves from growers with predominately sandy soils further south in Graves.

Pessac-Léognan has the best soils of the region, very similar to those of the Médoc, although the depth of gravel is more variable, and contains all the classed growths of the region. Some of its great names, including Ch. Haut-Brion, even sit serenely and resolutely in Bordeaux's southern urban sprawl.

The climate is milder than to the north of the city and the harvest can occur up to two weeks earlier. This gives the best wines a heady, rich and almost savoury character, laced with notes of tobacco, spice and leather. Further south, the soil is sandier with more clay, and the wines are lighter, fruity and suitable for earlier drinking.

Recommended Châteaux: Ch. Haut-Brion, Ch. la Mission Haut-Brion, Ch. Pape Clément, Ch Haut-Bailly, Domaine de Chevalier, Ch. Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Ch. Carmes Haut-Brion, Ch. La Garde, Villa Bel-Air.

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