2011 CHATEAU PALMER ALTER EGO de PALMER MARGAUX- this is a second label formerly known as La Reserve du General; it was made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot; although young in vintage, it was quite available giving upfront aromas and tastes of cinnamon, vanilla, leather and earth laden black cherry, black currant and plum; the body was medium plus, the tannins were refined and in the background, but evident enough to suggest and support longevity; the mouthfeel was noticeably pleasant; it was complex and nicely balanced; highly recommended especially as a good QPR.


2004 A.E. was a killer, great stuff

2002 was gorgeous on release, but do not hold up for the long haul unless stored correctly.

since 2004 AE is tough to get…try 2012 Cantenac Brown for similar pleasure

Marc, I have a few bottles of the '12 Cantenac sitting in storage, had not thought to try.

Thanks for the note.

Alter Ego is a kind of 21st marketing phenomenon though the first vintage was 1998, but is in fact as different entity to the old fashioned Reserve Du General, which contained the dregs.

AE doesn’t and the marketing denies AE is a second wine. However, qualitatively, it is a way behind the Grand Vin.

For some background blurb on Palmer

Ian, the link is quite informative and I`ve taken the liberty to copy and paste herein the part that relates to this wine especially since it deals with the same vintage. Thanks.

"Alter Ego – normally production is 12k cases. We tried the 2011 which had 15% petit verdot in the blend, and where production was severely curtailed by hail in early June and scorching weather in July. Chris of course insisted that Alter Ego is not a second wine, but an alternate one. It is intended for consumption between age 5-15, a much earlier drinking window than the GV. Chris pointed out that the old second wine, Reserve du General, which was discontinued in 1997, was the 10% of the production that didn’t go into Chateau Palmer. These days the 90% is roughly equally distributed between the GV and Alter Ego, with the remaining 10% (which used to go into RdG) being sold off as generic wine. He directly compared the relationship of Clos Du Marquis (no longer deemed a second wine) with the LLC GV.

This is the second time I have tried the 2011 AE - the first time was at the estate a year ago – and I found it underwhelming, and a bit too young. It should evolve into a pleasant quaffer but nothing more serious than that. It would be interesting to try the 1998, the first vintage of AE. At the end of the tasting we were served out of a Jereboam Alter Ego 2009, which had an impressive core of ripe exuberant cassis fruit and was a tad hot on the finish. It was better than the 2011 but there are plenty more interesting wines to go chasing at that price point."

Much as I like the Grand Vin at Chateau Palmer, the Alter Ego is a failure on two counts. First as a value, but that is very much the norm for second wines from the top estates in Bordeaux. A.E. is priced at the same level as Issan and more than Prieure Lichine both far superior wines. It fails also as a second wine. Good second wines should give an idea of what the first wine is like, but A.E. is deliberately made as an elegant, early maturing quaffer and bears little resemblance to the Grand Vin.

The one exception is 2010, which is head and shoulders above any other I have tasted from the estate, and is a mini me of the brilliant 2010 Palmer. It has incredible depth and length, and I ended up buying a couple of bottles, something I would not dream of doing with other vintages. I can’t help feeling that in trying to carve this separate identity and style, Palmer is missing an opportunity to make a really good second wine.

A.E. used to be an incredible value…bought the 2004 for $35.99 which was a steal, pure margaux berries, dusty tannins and sweaty leather…just heavenly, but soon after the quality seemed to push more new world and the priced doubled…I stopped buying

Mark, I respect your comments and have to think that you may have had a different opinion about the bottle we had. I have to admit, I was surprised and more than delighted to discover how good this was, relatively speaking. We paid $140 in the restaurant which translates into about $70 retail as I found their wine list prices doubled over retail pretty much across the board.

Sorry I did not mean to sound condescending. You tasted the wine at exactly at the point where it is going to show best, 6 years from vintage, showing nice aromatics and fairly easy tannins which didn’t overwhelm, and a pleasure to drink young. I think Palmer would consider that a really successful bottle. My problem is not that it’s a bad wine, but a bad value, and there are much better wines for the same or less money on the market. But, two of my candidates Giscours 2010 and Issan 2005, both available for retail at around the same price, would not have showed as well that night. Ultimately much better wines, but still needing several years, and that’s the niche that A.E. fills, a prestige name that you don’t have to cellar for 15+ years.

If you want to get lovely wines at the Alter Ego level which are ready too drink almost immediately, the competition is not the classified growths, but the better Cru Bourgeois from the same vintage, for instance Lannessan, Siran, Monbrison etc. I think second wines from major estates versus the competition would be a really interesting blind tasting.

To give my post some context, I did taste the 2011 in barrel, and it was perfectly pleasant, and I scored it 86-89. Even the Palmer 2011 was not a great wine, as the vintage was not an easy one, and I scored that 91-93. points.

Great response and thanks for the tips on options. I shall seek out some of your recs. Also, I`d like to set up a blind tasting to get some comparison. Appreciate it.

We did a Forts de Latour against Grand Puy Lacoste a few years ago, and GPL was almost always the better wine, with the exception of the oldest wines, the 1970s, where we had an over the hill bottle of GPL, and Forts from magnum and in great shape. Really interesting tasting; you could do the same with Margaux and Palmer second wines versus Rauzan, D’Issan and Giscours.

I’m with Mark. I have never been impressed with the wine’s value and that includes the 2004, which I liked. In nearly every vintage, I’d rather have a number of other producers’ first wines.

I had the 2002 Ego back in 2010 and it was fantastic, beautiful berries, so soft and elegant, classy stuff, bought some recent from less than ideal storage and unfortunately it did not show well.

I’m defiitely a fan of Palmer (and Alter Ego) at the moment. I think they are making the best wines in the appellation, and I think this reflects a huge amount of work by Thomas Duroux, who is meticulous in the vineyard and expert in the cellars. I find few other wines capture that floral, perfumed side of Margaux so well, while still retaining a sense of ripeness and concnentration in the underlying fruit.

The comments on pricing are pertinent though. The 2014 Alter Ego on the market in the UK is £40 excluding government duty (about £2 per bottle) and VAT (add another 20%). That’s an expensive second wine, although I think this pricing reflects where Thomas and team see the wine. They have a great belief in the wine they are making (not without merit, it has to be said).

This article from Liv-Ex (http://www.insights.liv-ex.com/en-primeur-often-mispriced) is relevant - the barchart a little further down the page shows “relative value” of en primeur releases compared to prices of previous 11 vintages, with “overvalued” (overpriced, you could say) on the left and “undervalued” (or good value) on the left. Palmer’s position is extreme.

I definitely agree that price is the downfall of AE. I used to be able to buy it in the supermarket in the UK for about £30 a bottle (talking 2002-2009 vintages or thereabouts) and if we were out of the house and needed to pick up a bottle (for any number of reasons) it was my go-to wine. Even the 2009 was quite reasonable and very high quality when tasted recently. After that I get the feeling that it went slightly down in quality (probably after 2010) and significantly up in price (probably based on the high release price of the 2010). Saying that, I used to drink it a lot and now I don’t - don’t think I’ve actually tried the 2011.