Celebrated 1996 Vintage in Burgundy Comes Under Fire

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Wine critics worldwide have praised the 1996 vintage in Burgundy for the quality of the wines and for their exceptional cellaring potential. Today the wines are dying.

Right from the start, the 1996 vintage in Burgundy was hailed by wine critics as “remarkable”, “exceptional”, even “legendary.” From Europe to the US, virtually every wine professional, wine writer, and wine critic extolled the qualities of the wines and promised consumers decades of cellaring potential. Prices skyrocketed overnight and today top-end 1996s are still some of Burgundy's most expensive wines.

Contrary to common opinion, veteran wine consultant and wine critic Thierry Paul Leroux, the man who sparked a controversy in the wine world a few months ago when he publicly announced that the 1990 Bordeaux were dying, expressed his reservations concerning the 1996 vintage in Burgundy. In several articles on EliteWine.com, Leroux warned wine enthusiasts that overall the vintage had been overestimated and that the wines did not have the cellaring potential announced. In 2004, Leroux shocked his readers when he wrote: “To think that the 1996 Burgundies have a great ageing potential is another mistake. I said it several times, including recently, ...many 1996s are now dying. This is even more true for the whites.”

Today, a few other critics and wine professionals are finally admitting that the 1996 vintage in Burgundy has been overrated and that the wines do not have a great cellaring potential. Wine writer Mike Steinberger recently observed in a column for Slate that: “The 1996 white Burgundies are dying young” and wondered “Why?” During an interview with Thierry Paul Leroux, Burgundy's Maison Bouchard Pere & Fils director Bernard Hervet said: "The 1996 vintage did not have the qualities announced. One had to aim very high in the Burgundy hierarchy to find reds with a true cellaring potential in 1996. These wines had to be drunk on the fruit. It is obvious today for many appellations, unfortunately for all those who believed in the ageing potential of this vintage."

Thierry Paul Leroux's explanation of why the vintage was overrated rests on the fact that most critics today focus too much on primary aromas, on “the fruit” or “the flesh” and do not take into account the ageing potential of wines. After a few years, when the wines lose their flesh, sometimes only bones remain and this is exactly what is happening to the 1996 Burgundies.

Most wine critics, however, are sticking to their guns, refusing to admit what is now obvious: they were wrong about the quality of the1996 Burgundies and, overall, the vintage does not have the cellaring potential they announced early on.

This has implications for wine enthusiasts and wine collectors alike as the 1996 vintage in Burgundy has been considered to be one of the greatest vintages ever, as reflected by auction prices worldwide. Many collectors are now finding out their wines are well past their peaks.

About EliteWine:

EliteWine (http://www.EliteWine.com) is the online magazine for the world's most discriminating wine lovers. Email: contact@elitewine.com

About Thierry Paul Leroux:

Veteran wine consultant and wine critic Thierry Paul Leroux has over 30 years of experience in the wine industry. Based in Austin, Texas, Thierry Paul's wine reviews and articles appear exclusively on EliteWine.com. Thierry Paul can be contacted by fax at (512) 386-8987.

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