93 Points Robert Parker
This dark purple-colored wine exhibits notes of sweet plum, blackberry, and cassis intermixed with some licorice, chocolate, and espresso. It is a blend of 94% Shiraz and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon that tips the scales at 14+% alcohol. The wine is layered, unctuously textured, full-bodied with tremendous intensity, moderately high tannin, and a 40-second finish. The wine needs a good 4-5 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2006-2025. This Grange should ultimately merit a higher score when it is closer to its plateau of drinkability.
Source: Robert Parker (Robert Parker's Wine Advocate) by Robert M. Parker, Jr. February, 2002
97 Points James Halliday
Medium to full red-purple, still bright after five years, vibrant cherry and plum fruit aromas more than handle the oak on the bouquet; the palate is sumptuous, but not heavy, the cherry and plum flavours tracking the bouquet. The wine has a very long finish, with fine, integrated tannins. Destined to become one of the great Granges. Drink to 2026.
Source: James Halliday. January, 2001
See my review on the 1996 vintage in the 750 ml listing.As this is a magnum I would not be thinking of drinking this until 2016 at the earliest!!
Has Robert Parker got it wrong?
With a lowly [comparatively speaking] rating of 93pts. Well here is the case I would guess as he would put it.
1/He owes nothing to no one.He is independent.
2/He calls it as he sees it,or tastes it!!.
3/That is why people read him in the first place
4/Perhaps, & this is obviosly speculation. That he calls the wine on what it is , not what it will become.Because that WOULD be speculation!!.
In other words pure self rightousnes, & justification!!!.
Why is it so hard for wine reviewers to embrace, or even aknowledge, opinions other than their own??.
Have they no peers??.Are they so superior??.
Here is the case as he would deny it.
1/ In "The Rewards of Patience" 6 international reviwers & more than 3 penfolds winemakers rated the 1996 an outstanding vintage [Red star]
They awarded 18 such Red Stars since 1951. They also reached a consensus that the 96 would continue to develop till 2040!!.
Jeremy Oliver [my favorite reviewer,because he usually agrees with me !!!.No,I'm kidding!!!] gives the 1996 grange a 98 pt rating,the only one he has ever awarded to a grange.
Well there it is. 11 eminent opinions to 1!!!.
Here is my 2 cents worth.
I've been to 6 grange tastings,the last in 2007,in the Member's Pavillion of the S.C.G. ,with 10 enthusiatist mates. The vertical in Grange was 83 ,96 , & 2002.[All 'red star',outstanding vintages. All were outstanding,& all had important differences.The 1983 was well developed,but still to reveal it's ultimate potential,or peak!.There will still be viable bottles at the end of this century!.It is a wine full of contradictions. Smooth, yet still tannic.Developed, yet still slightly reductive , or closed.Aged,yet still growing.Complex,yet still without a full measure of subtlety,or finesse.
The 1996 by direct contrast was a much more complete,urbane , & polished customer. It's sophistication emphasised by a contrasting absence of contradiction.The 96 is more than youthful,powerful,& masculine.There is almost a god-like transcendent quality,to it's depth of flavors,characters,& structure.
The 1996 has also been oxygen deprived, if you like by the hype, & publicity of the 1998.Certainly, by the greedy rush to secure bottles, & the extraordinary prices paid on release.Parker gave the 1998 a 99pt rating,& it was hailed as the most outstanding vintage of the 1990's.Penfolds didn't mind,they just put the price of the 1999 up another $100.!!.With the accompaning justification that the wine was obviously being undersold!!![by them!!??]
To me the 1998 is a quinticential Australian.A big open friendly upfront abundently fruited wine.Complete in almost every way.In no way lacking power, complexity, strength,depth,or sublety.
So what does the 1996 have that the 1998 does not??.
Simply this.THE 1996 also has a powerful agression ,a profoundly competitive & supremely penetrating length within itself, & exemplified in the depth of it's structure, & tannins.As the 96 matures this will not diminish,but just become more refined, subtle,& elegant.These qualities,may well serve to ensure the 1996 becomes the greatest,& most long-lived of all Granges.
Anyway back to the S.C.G. After the tasting we kicked on to my mate Henry's, & he generously pulled the corks on a 1991 Magill Estate, & a 1986 Grange.
This served to illustrate, or even prove several points.
1/Magill Estate in exeptional vintages is very close to Grange,[in quality]after all it is the foundation vinyard.
2/If money is no object 1986 is the best drinking Grange of all
3/The 1986 Grange is the finest of the intermediate style Granges,until the 1996 equals & almost certainly surpasses it.In a way the 1986 is already at a level,or place the 1996 will attain , & then move beyond.
Historically speaking i believe the 1996 represents the ultimate expression of the John Duval Granges, & the 85+% shiraz - cabernet blend.
In conclusion. a Q & A.
Is the 96 the 'best' Grange?. No, but i believe it will be in time.
Is it the best value Grange?. Yes, not because of what,or where it is , but what it will become.At around $100 less than 1990,& $250 less than the 1986 this is commercially, well illustrated.
Is Grange the best Australian shiraz??.No.I prefer Henschke Hill of Grace, for many reasons.However Grange is wonderfull, & unique.
Is Grange too expensive?.Not if you compare it to international wines of equivalent calibre.A more pertinent question is whether someone is prepared to to pay the price.Lots are.Seemingly more everyday,what does that say??.