1996 was the first truly outstanding year for the wines of the Médoc since 1990, with many châteaux making some of the best wines in their history. The chunkier, flashier 2000s may match them, as will the near-perfect 2005s (which combine the best qualities of 1996 & 2000) but otherwise one has to look back to 1990 to find a vintage of similar quality.
The best of these wines have started to open up since 2007 and can be drunk now with some time in the decanter. That said, the inherent balance of these wines is such that they can be kept, and will develop further in the second decade of 2000 and for many years to come. Moreover, they offer exceptional value when compared to their 2000 and 2005 counterparts.
The weather pattern in Bordeaux was unusual for a great vintage - warm and dry in June and July and then cool and damp throughout much of August. However, September was dry and sunny during the day, followed by cool nights - the result was a rapid rise in sugar levels but with acidity levels remaining intact, leading to ultra-ripe and well structured wines, especially in the Médoc.
This is one of the great post-war vintages for Médoc Cabernet-based wines. They are rich, complex, and beautifully balanced wines, packed with ripe, pure fruit and have the structure that will allow the top wines to age well into the next decade and beyond. The St-Emilions and Pomerols are distinguished but tend to be overshadowed by the rich and gloriously fruity 95s.