Changes at Palmer

Mssr Duroux,

Welcome! It is good to speak to you again. I was a participant at a dinner you held at the Jefferson Hotel in DC in early 2011. The event was a distinct pleasure, drinking so many great vintages of Palmer with you guiding us through their heredity. Shortly after that dinner, I organized a single-blind tasting of 2005 Margaux, of which Palmer was one of 12-13 wines. The participants (experienced BDX palates, some of which were at the aforementioned dinner) were struck by how modernesque albeit large, the Palmer was. We were sure that it was Malescot before the unveiling. It got us to wonder if there had been a “shift” in the formula behind the grand vin.
We recalled you had described your approach to categorizing plot/vine assignments between Alter Ego and Ch Palmer beginning with the first vintage you performed harvest (2004?). The goal, paraphrasing your explanation, was to segregate the “grand vin” plots with the less mature ones which would go to an earlier drinking Alter Ego. Do you think this has had an effect on the structure and taste of the 2005 Palmer? If so, how do you think it will show at maturity (or say at 15, 20 and 25 years of age) compared to prior top vintages of Palmer (e.g. 61, 66, 83, 89)? Further, does this constitute a change in expression for the wine?

Much appreciated and best regards,
Faryan Amir-Ghassemi

Faryan poses the question well and I know it is one I am keenly interested in exploring. It is no secret that the 2005 Palmer is of a more extracted style, one that can easily be taken as atypical for the chateau. I have been a follower and lover of Palmer’s elegant and ethereal qualities that seem to be bereft in how the 2005 is showing today. I am curious to hear your opinions on Faryan’s question.

There has also been some talk and speculation about the general quality of wines in Margaux in recent past vintages. Some have noted a drop in quality of wines being produced here and have attributed the problem to the making of wines in a more modern or international style, neglecting what could be thought of as the inherent qualities of the appellation (that being the associated elegance and delicate perfume). I am curious to know what you think about the recent wines of the appellation and in particular I would love to hear what you think the ‘true’ expression or terroir of Palmer’s vineyards are, or at the very least, how you have come to understand the wine, vintage aside.

Thanks for your time and thank you for being here! [cheers.gif]


I posted an answer to Faryan but guess what: it disappeared in the cloud…
So here is my point: we have to different approach for Chateau Palmer and Alter Ego. For the first one we choose the most complex fruit and we focus the phenolic ripeness (tanin maturity). For Ater Ego we choose the fresher fruits and we focus on the aromatic ripeness.
That said, 2005 was an extravagant vintage and the climate influenced the wines pretty much. That is what you feel when you taste Palmer 05. But I am totally convinced that the terroir will come back. I can already feel it.
Palmer is elegant and ethereal, but it is easier to see it in a vintage like 08 or 10 than in a vintage like 05 or 09. But trust the terroir!!!

As far as the Margaux Appelation concern, I think that there are different approaches and I will not comment what my colleague’s approaches are. My feeling is that Palmer identity is: elegance, finesse (that is very margaux), with a very special velvet note (that’s what makes palmer special). But then of course each vintage brings its own…

Thank you for taking the time to answer our question, very much appreciated [thankyou.gif]

I have noticed that the quality of Alter Ego has become much better and very consistent during your time at Palmer. Do you attribute this to your revised vineyard parceling alone or have there been other changes to the wine making that have made the wine that much better?

Well I think this a vineyard selection revision but mostly a different approach in winemaking: for Alter Ego batches we extract less, we ferment at lower temperature (to keep fresh fruit aromas), we macerate less. We adapt the winemaking to the potential and to our goal.

Greetings Thomas! Nice to see you here. Off topic a bit but just a chance to thank wine berserkers for organizing this chance to hold cyberspace conversations with you. By the way, a fine question that Faryan posted and thanks for your reply. It was great to have had Palmer in Washington DC, nothing but fond memories of that tasting, during which I think the 2000 was drinking better than the 2005… but as you say, give the wine time, and the terroir should come through… it will be interesting to try both the 2000 and 2005 again side by side in another five years or so!

Hi Panos
You are always welcome at the Chateau!! Let’s have a lunch next time you are around and we will taste both of theme side by side!!

Hi Thomas. That is a very kind proposition, thank you.
Will try to be in Bordeaux a little more than just for the en primeur week next year, and will contact you as soon as I know my dates.
Best regards from Strasbourg,