Twenty-Five Years On: The 1996 Vintage
Any good wine cellar is continually evolving. New bottles and cases arrive (more of the former and less of the latter in recent years), and old bottles which have been resting undisturbed in some dark and dingy corner have to shuffle along, to make room. Those freshly arrived bottles of Savennières from Thibaud Boudignon, and Vouvray from Domaine des Aubuisières, can’t be left languishing outside the cellar door for too long.
Even better than simply moving along the long-term residents, however, is pulling the corks. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that old vintages are for opening and drinking, rather than for hoarding. After all there is little more disappointing than finding a wine has been cellared past its best, the texture and fruit long faded, leaving a bare and hollow shell where once there was the potential for joy.
And so, as recently acquired Savennières and Vouvray (and others!) have been secreted away, I delved into some long-overlooked bins to pull out a few bottles from the 1996 vintage. I soon had two dozen bottles lined up. And it wasn’t much longer before I had a corkscrew in my hand. Here then, is a report on a random selection of wines from my cellar, all hailing from 1996. Bordeaux and the Loire Valley feature prominently, as you might expect, but so too does Champagne, a reflection of the strength of the vintage in this corner of France, along with a few prominent names from one or two other well-known regions.