Ian, here's a 2005 article/discussion:
M English, Herts, England:
Might it be an idea to have a "your tasting notes turn"? I'm disappointed more often than not by 1996 white burgundy and 1996 red burgundy can still be a bit of an enigma. They are made in such relatively small quantities it is difficult to get any update on how they might be maturing.
I really, really hate to sound a killjoy (as with 1998 Rhones) but I think that most professionals would admit that 1996 burgundies of both colours have been disappointing. I could pretend that I alone predicted correctly (especially as I did not have this website then) but I was one of the great majority who thought they were very exciting when young, and found their relatively high acidity refreshing rather than excessive but, alas, in too many wines of both colours, the acidity seems to have won an in-bottle battle with the fruit and we are left with awfully lean, skinny wines. I too have many a disappointing 1996 in my cellar.
While I'm delighted to have a change of subject matter from all this bordeaux 2004 stuff, I wish it were with brighter news. It does seem to me that you have to go very high indeed in the Burgundy hierarchy, white grands crus specifically, before finding confirmation of the promise these wines seemed to offer in 1998.
David Schildknecht, US:
I would just add to the issues of balance you raised, the host of questions
and discussions that have surrounded the high incidence of apparently
prematurely oxidized 1996 white burgundies. A few of the principal theories or hunches I have read adduced to explain this phenomenon - and betweenwhich I do not myself pretend to the requisite expertise to decide -include:
- This is a phase, and the wines of 1996 are more apt than others to run
through manic-depressive cycles of oxidation and reduction in bottle. (I
certainly have seen a few 1996 - and 1995 - white burgundies stage flavour recoveries after seeming to be down for the proverbial count.)
- Given the high acidity and low pHs and a widespread, relatively newfound concern over toxicity, growers seriously under-estimated the levels of sulfur needed to sustain the freshness of fruit that contributed to the appeal of the youthful 1996s. (I have read numerous mea culpas from
responsible growers testifying to this explanation.)
- Widespread transition to peroxide (rather than chlorine) washes for
cleaning corks had the unexpected effect of promoting premature oxidation. (I have read some particularly heated discussions as to the scientific soundness of this particular hypothesis.)
- A background level of botrytis even in the dry and ostensibly clean wines has come back to haunt them, generating an unholy synergy with the tart acids and reinforcing flavors of oxidation.
The Rhine basin Rieslings from this vintage are also a bit cranky right now, and I hope to assemble a decent set of notes soon to more adequately assess a vintage which here too seemed to hold exceptional promise with its unique combination of turbo-charged acids with high ripeness.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention that suspicions have also been
raised about the pre-mature maturation of Loire Sauvignons and Chenins of 1996, a vintage that certainly exhibited a rather well-defined, not to
mention distinctive trans-regional, vintage character [ie very crisp acidity].
Hopefully readers will be able to chime in with anecdotes and hunches.
A reader suggested this article, which Jancis said had good info: