Château d’Angludet 1996
I have long been a fan of the 1996 vintage in Bordeaux, certainly on the left bank, perhaps less so on the right. It wasn’t a vintage I tasted in its youth, either at the primeurs or shortly after bottling, simply because I wasn’t engaged with these sorts of tastings back in the 1990s. Thus my first real encounter with the vintage (that I can recall, anyway) was in a tasting group with some friends, when the wines were not quite five years old. This group consisted of a dozen-or-so keen amateurs, although I think this description perhaps does several of them a disservice. There was nothing ‘amateurish’ about the experience of some of the palates that sat around that table; they had clearly been very finely honed by years of blind-tasting Bordeaux. I learnt a lot at those tastings.
The wines were just babies at this point, barely five-years old, but even then tasting the likes of Château Calon-Ségur, rich in fat inky fruit, and Château Pontet-Canet, confident and touched with curry spices (yes, really) it was clear that these wines had beautiful style, and a long life ahead of them. Even less renowned châteaux (although, to be fair, at the time Pontet-Canet had nothing like the reputation it has today) such as Château du Tertre and good old Château Poujeaux showed really well. It was a tasting which imbued me with an enthusiasm for the vintage on the left bank, and I subsequently bought many (the very next day, if I recall correctly) and tucked them away in the cellar. More than fifteen years on, I am still drinking them, and I have a few bottles still to go.
The joy of a vintage such as this is that as well as the truly great wines, it also gives us good-value drinking. It is the same with 2005, 2009, 2010 and – in certain regions in particular – 2015 as well. I would have liked to have filled my cellar with Château Palmer and Château Margaux in the 1996 vintage, but as it happens more affordable bottles have tended to dominate my buying and my drinking. I am sure I am not the only one for whom this is the case. It is easy to obsess over first growths and their challengers, but sadly it is not so easy to drink them every day. Château d’Angludet (they only dropped the ‘d’ in the 2010 vintage, by the way, so I am sticking with the old name here) is a reliable and affordable alternative within the Margaux appellation.
I bought my bottles of the 1996 for a song many years ago now, but it is a feature of Bordeaux that wines often remain available in the secondary market for many years, decades even, including this one. And whereas the prices of many wines from this region seem to ascend into the stratosphere, dependable drinkers like this don’t seem to do that. I can’t help feeling that they offer more interest than a similarly priced wine from the 2014 or 2015 vintage, which needs to be cellared out of sight and out of mind for perhaps two decades to achieve anything like the same level of complexity and evolution. Right now the 1996 Château d’Angludet has a maturing hue, but like many left-bank 1996s I have enjoyed recently it still has a remarkably confident colour, with a near-opaque core, a black-tulip hue, with only a thin oxblood rim betraying the wine’s true age. I find the nose to be quite classic, with dried blackcurrant skins and juniper berries, nuanced with a little toasted bread and a smoky note of charcoal. It has a fresh, pure and supple palate, and it is still showing even at twenty years a richly textured character, quite substantial, with an appealing energy. The fruit still feels taut and fresh, while the tannins feel largely resolved, only showing in the finish. The texture is correct and polished, with a lovely balance and frame to it. Ultimately, it is delicious and very easy to drink. Which is, of course, what it’s all about. 16.5/20 (15/8/16)