Reviews & Scores
While many of the best '96s do remain impressively youthful, this seems to be stuck in a time capsule that brooks no change, at least not willingly! The ultra-elegant nose is clearly still developing and while there are background traces of apple, yeast and floral undertones in evidence, it is the citrus elements that presently dominate. The incredible refinement doesn't stop with the nose however as the detailed and vibrant flavors are firm yet delicate with fine shadings of citrus, yeast and something vaguely akin to minerality that continues onto the pure, harmonious and driving finish that is bone dry but not austere. It's hard to predict exactly when this might be at its best, though my sense is 5 to 7 years hence.
A warm, even hot, spring with no real change during the summer, conditions that allowed the grapes to gorge themselves on sugar while preserving good acidity. Harvest began on 23 September. Hazelnut, spices, flowers form part of the remarkable aromatic complexity of this Champagne that also has also remarkable depth of character. Perhaps the most impressive Salon of the tasting. On the palate, a sensation of flesh and opulence, but also the telltale precision and erect backbone of racy acidity, and an enthralling finish ending on a refreshing note of salinity. A truly great Salon that leaves one speechless.
I have had my share of oxidized vintages of Salon in the last decade, but this bottle of the 1996 was spot on and absolutely singing at our tasting and is one of the most exciting bottles of Salon I have tasted in years. The stunning nose soars from the glass in a blaze of pear, apple, fresh-baked bread, caraway seed, a complex base of chalky soil tones, fresh nutmeg and plenty of smokiness in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, crisp and complex, with a rock solid core of fruit, great mineral drive, refined mousse and simply stunning length and grip on the laser-like finish. Sheer brilliance.
Very tight little bead. Mid straw. Very distinctive. Very tightly wound. Introspective. Almost nervous but admirable. A bit like a hugely respected but utterly un-attention-seeking academic. Wonderful texture. Then opens out on the palate. Very firm. Mineral rather than fruit or veg or breadiness.
Incredible freshness and tightness with fantastic acidity and minerality. Full-bodied, compacted and intense. Flinty! Then light yeast and bread dough. Superb. In suspended animation!
The 1996 Salon is just beginning to enter the early part of its plateau of maturity. Time in bottle has softened some of the razor-sharp focus the 1996 had when it was first released, but all of the energy it had as a young Champagne remains. A host of candied lemon, almonds and wild flowers punctuate the sculpted, persistent finish. Readers who own the 1996 can look forward to another two decades or more of exceptional drinking. This is the ultimate expression of Champagne as wine
This bottle of the 1996 Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Brut was drinking superbly and represents the apotheosis of Blanc de Blancs, unfurling over the course of three hours with a stunningly complex bouquet of citrus oil, confit lemon, dried white flowers and oyster shell, with hints of praline and pastry cream becoming more pronounced as the wine opens up in the glass. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, deep and multidimensional, defined by the incisive spine so typical of the vintage that, here, is cloaked in layers of crisp fleshy and chalky extract. The finish is long, penetrating and saline.