The buying recommendations are a bit early this month. This is partly because I am bored and stuck in front of the computer whilst the cleaner is working her magic, but also because I feel there is a degree of urgency about getting these wines. 1996 was an exceptional vintage for Champagne; both riper and more acidic than 1990 (which was the previous ‘best vintage ever’). The wines burst with luxuriant fruit and fine acidity and will generally age very well.
I’ve rarely enjoyed Champagnes as much as the 1996s I’ve had, although most of what I have purchased went immediately to my various cellars. The problem is that demand for these wines was so high most of them have now disappeared from wine merchant’s shelves and have been replaced by the (much-lesser) following vintages. The five wines I recommend here are ones I have particularly enjoyed that happen to still be available, albeit in limited quantities. I suggest you snap them up and lock them away safely in your cellars; they’ll provide a lot of pleasure in years to come.
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Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1996, Pol Roger
Quite the best 1996 fizz I’ve had. A big, bold Pinot dominated wine that is utterly beguiling and really requires at least another five years in the cellar. This is a completely fantastic wine. If you are a member of the Wine Society you can get it there for £90 a bottle (incl. delivery), if you are not a member then Nickolls and Perks have it for £89 a bottle (excl. delivery).
Champagne Clos des Goisses 1996, Philipponnat
This single-vineyard Champagne is really another one for the cellar, they are beautiful when mature. This is quite a big-styled Champagne that is unusually high in alcohol at 13%. Top stuff, though. £75 from Fortnum and Mason.
Champagne Brut Chardonnay 1996, Pol Roger
This is far prettier than the two wines above, and more approachable to drink now. It has very good ripe fruit and a rich, creamy character. It’ll also age very well. £48.95 (less if you buy a case) from Berry Brothers and Rudd. It is not 14% as they claim on their website.
Champagne Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 1996, Billecart-Salmon
Until I had the Churchill, this was the best 1996 Champagne I had tried. I preferred it to Bollinger. It is light-bodied which may make one think it’ll drink well young, but really this will improve greatly with age. A note is [link2post id=”1487″]here[/link2post]. The Wine Society have it for £40 a bottle or you can get it here for £48.72 a bottle.
Champagne vintage 1996, Alfred Gratien
A reasonably full-bodied, oaky Champagne that has quite a lot of style and class for the price. A brief note is [link2post id=”336″]here[/link2post]. £35 from the Wine Society.