Thursday, July 26, 2007

1996 Leoville Barton, St. Julien

Producer: Chateau Leoville Barton
Vintage: 1996
Appellation: St. Julien, Bordeaux

A beautiful wine with lots of deep, rich, dark fruit, wet stone and leather. Ruby red/purple with no visible signs of fading. It completely takes over the palate, expanding and unfolding, with a finish that seems to go on and on. Don't worry that this wine is already eleven years old as it probably has another fifteen years of life left in it. We tasted this next to the 1990 Gruard Larose, which currently does not seem to be drinking nearly as well. Do not hesitate to look for other vintages of Leoville Barton, too, because their quality to price ratio is usually unsurpassed in Bordeaux. 93 points. find it

9 comments:

Blair Andrews said...

I really have enjoyed your blog, just discovered it today fishing for some Chateau Siran info. I have been "eyeing" a bottle of '96 at our Whole Foods market for about a year at $95 bucks and wonder if its worth it. I only wonder if they've taken good care of it? Anyway, you have enticed me even further and I love your blog! Well written and fun!

Brad Rothman said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, Blair! I am so glad you enjoy what I have written. I would be a bit concerned about the provenance of the bottle in question as well. I am always cautious when buying older vintages. $95 isn't a terrible price, but it's no steal either. Since it has been on the shelf for about a year it sounds like you have some time to do a little digging around for a different bottle. Try winebid.com or winecommune.com. If you find a bottle of the '96 Barton that you are comfortable with, it is a wonderful St. Julien from a great vintage that is ready to drink now, and I'm sure you will love it. You might also consider trying the '96 Lagrange, which is almost as pleasing for about 40% less.

Anonymous said...

Brad...you rock! You are so sexy too.

Brad Rothman said...

Thanks, but I'm sure it's just the wine talking. You'll regret it in the morning.

RougeAndBlanc said...

Brad,
I accidentally came across your blog. Good writing!
However, I hate to tell you that the price of '96 Lagrange has shot up greatly since last year, it now cost around $75 for a bottle. However, the Leoville Barton is "only" around $95. Given the smaller price differential, going for the '96 Leoville Barton nowadays is a no brainer.
On the other note, '99 St. Julien wines are not to shabby either. What do you think about the '99 Leoville Barton?
Looking forward for your opinions.
Andrew

RougeAndBlanc said...

Brad,
I accidentally came across your blog. Good writing!
'99 St. Julien wines are not to shabby either. What do you think about the '99 Leoville Barton?
The '96 is 91-94 pts and the '99 is 88 pts (by Robert Parker).
1999 Leoville Barton is about $40.
Is that 3 pts difference worth the $50 difference?
Looking forward for your opinions.
Andrew

Brad Rothman said...

Andrew,
Thank you for the compliment! I am glad you found my blog. After reading your comment I checked my cellar for a '99 Barton, and realized I have a gap from '97-'99. I found some for $45/btl. at JJ Buckley and have ordered some to try. I must admit I have not tried more than a few '99s as it is a vintage sandwiched between two outstanding years. Largely overlooked, '99s may offer some good values, but I am as guilty as the rest for focusing more on the '98s and '00s. Thanks for the tip on the '99 Barton. I am looking forward to trying it, and I'll let you know in a few weeks what my impression of the wine is.

Brad Rothman said...

Andrew... to answer your question "Is that 3 points (from Parker) worth the $50 difference (in price)?"

Great question, and one not easily answered! Maybe so, maybe not. Although L-B is usually excellent year after year it isn't generally considered to be investment grade wine. That is not to say that it will not maintain its value, or even appreciate considerably over time. However, most of it is purchased for drinking and not for re-selling. For investment purposes the 3 to 4 points are important b/c some collectors are "point chasers," and sub-90 point wines don't excite them. Assuming you are looking for a bottle for personal consumption, the question is whether or not your palate agrees with Parker on these two wines. You very well might find something in the '99 that you prefer over the '96. If that is the case the fifty additional dollars would not be well spent. Remember, Parker's reviews on these wines were his impressions upon release, and are likely as old as the wine. As the wines evolve differently over time it is possible the '99 could be drinking better right now (to you) than the '96, or vice versa. One of the reasons I maintain this blog is to give people who are thinking about popping a cork or acquiring a wine an additional piece of information from which to draw when making those decisions. To me, four points is a vast difference, and depending on the occasion may be worth the extra $50. For example an 88 point wine might be perfect while at home on a Tuesday night reading a book or watching a movie with my wife, but on our anniversary I would tend to open something I would rate more highly. Usually those wines cost more, but it is difficult to put a valuation on points. It is important to base your decisions on the reviewer's description of the wine as much as the score. For example, if you prefer focused, elegant and balanced wines you might find a young, valley floor Napa Cabernet to be almost undrinkable due to it's lush fruit and oakiness even if a reviewer has given it 92 points. I think the best advice I can give is to sample a few wines suggested by a particular critic and learn what they like or dislike. There are no fool proof methods for buying wine, but whether or not three or four points makes enough of a difference to justify spending another $50 can ultimately be determined by only one person - you. Unless, of course, you are married. Then the decision really isn't your anyhow, is it?

RougeAndBlanc said...

Brad,
Wow! Thanks again for the reply and opinion. As you have suggested, ultimatly, I guess one way to find out is to get a '96 and a '99 and perform a side by side test and draw my own conclusion. Thankfully, L-B is still affordable (relatively speaking).
I shall look forward to your tasting notes on the '99.
Thanks.
Andrwe