For some time I have thought that 1996 is the best vintage the 90s decade, especially for reds, notwithstanding the fine and very appealing 1990s. 1996 is a classic good Loire vintage. It has a lovely balance of fruit, structure and acidity and has aged well as Tim's comment 'nice youthful seeming' bears out. 1996 and 1997 were both good years and naturally frequently compared. 1997 has always been ripe and opulent – a crowd pleaser. While the best have lasted better than they thought they might, they don't have the same level of balance and complexity found in 1996 reds. 1995 was potentially a good year for reds too but while I've had a few good 1995s the high level of acidity has meant that they have taken a long time to come round and it seems likely that marked acidity will continue to be a feature of the 1995s.
As well as the Clos Rougeard above other 1996 reds I have recently drunk and enjoyed include Les Châtains from Domaine de Nerleux, Grand Clos from Château de Villeneuve and the Anjou Villages from Domaine de Bablut. The 1996 Gamay from Clos Roche Blanche was showing well about two/three years ago – will have to check on its progress.
1996 is also a fine year for dry whites and demi-secs along with good sweet wines. With the sweets 1995, 1996 and 1997 make a fascinating trio with perhaps the 1997s being superior.