TN: A Few Vintages of Palmer and Hello

Hello Everyone,

I have been lurking around here for a few months and have decided to take the preverbal plunge into actively participating. As a relatively young guy it is often difficult to explore my seemingly obsessive passion for wine with my colleagues and peers who are more content with other things. Places like wineberserkers are great for reclaiming a sense of community in our common interest and I hope to learn a lot and make some new friends.

As a collector and enthusiast, the wines of Burgundy will always have my full attention. That being said, I have always found a uniqueness in the wines of Margaux and in particular the wines of Chateau Palmer. I thought a good first post would be to share some tasting notes of a few Palmers that I have had recently.

Thanks a lot and I look forward to participating!


1978 Chateau Palmer: Fully mature, nice integration, perhaps a little over the hill, but maybe this was because I had it from a .375. It has a nice aroma of roasted herbs, cedar and earth that gives way to dried cranberry, some graphite, and violet. After some time in the glass, the nose develops an interesting burnt rubber, liquorice and red fruit characteristic. In the mouth, tart red fruit, forest floor, cigar box and smoke are clearly apparent. The finish is lasting and generally enjoyable. The acid is still quite striking, which took me a bit by surprise, but it lends a nice freshness to this wine. There is definitely elegance to it and worth another look in the very near future. 90 pts.

1989 Chateau Palmer: I hear a lot of talk about the 89 Palmer being somewhat austere, thin and at times being quite vegetal. However, my experience with this vintage of Palmer has really only been positive. I had this wine most recently at Troquet and found it to be just as enjoyable as previous times. The 89 has great depth and shows a lot of that classic Palmer style that I like. It definitely needed some time to open up, initially it was quite closed and somewhat awkward, but it quickly straightened up and showed beautiful earthiness, red fruit, mushroom, and slight floral notes on the nose. On the palate it showed great depth, darker fruits, spice and game with balanced tannins. I definitely think it will develop into an even more striking Palmer. The only problem was that we finished the bottle very quickly and I didn’t get to see where else it might have been going given some more time. 93 pts.

2007 Alter Ego de Palmer: My local merchant gifted me 2 bottles of the 2007 and I brought both to a friend’s house for dinner recently; I thought it might have some universal appeal. It is definitely a very typical Bordeaux, but still retains many elements of what I like about Palmer and in general Margaux. It is very accessible and surprisingly ready to go, the nose shows nice touches of tobacco, darker fruits and earth. On the palate it is a bit more ‘opulent’ than the 2007 Palmer and somewhat clunky and it developed a stewed fruit quality that I didn’t much care for, but others seemed to like that aspect of it. The higher percentage of merlot being used is clearly apparent. Although it was a hit at dinner, I wasn’t too impressed. Still it was fun to drink. 87 pts.

2005 Chateau Palmer: Very heavy-handed and un-Palmer like. The nose is powerful and filled with red and black fruits, violets, spice and some vanilla. On the palate it takes on an almost candied like approach, the fruits and oak are intense and somewhat primary almost. It is very ‘modern’ and forward in style, which I think detracts from my overall experience of the wine, especially a Palmer. I can see fans of Napa cab liking this vintage of Palmer quite a bit. It will be interesting to see how this is drinking in another 10 years when more of the secondary and tertiary aspects come to light. 91 pts.

Can’t seem to find the picture I took of the 2005

Welcome to the board! And thanks for the nice notes. I recall at least one prior very positive note on the '89 Palmer (as well as a very good score from Parker). And I just happen to have a few in the cellar! [cheers.gif]

I think my first introduction to Palmer came at a tasting of top '61s, maybe 20 years ago, at a tasting before an auction in Boston. The 2nd best wine was the '61 Latour, a stunning wine, but the wine that even outperformed that one was the '61 Palmer - and I guess it isn’t a total secret, as it goes for big bucks any time a bottle shows up at auction!

Thanks for the welcome Paul! I have never had the pleasure of tasting the '61, but it is a legendary Palmer, I have had the '66, which is quite good and some say is more Palmeresque in character than the '61…and it can be had at a fraction of the price of the '61. Nice to hear you have some '89 in the cellar [cheers.gif] As I recall Parker raved even more about the '89 some years after as well, it still has a long life ahead of it!

Jeremiah - welcome, and great first post! Be sure to stick around as we have Thomas Duroux coming to Wine Berserkers for a week as our Special Guest, starting Oct 23rd. I’m sure you might have a few questions for him…

Now that’s a heck of an entry! Welcome to the Boards, and thanks for the notes.

Thanks for the notes.

The '89 Palmer is very good indeed, and the '61 is indeed a legendary wine…

Welcome to the board! Like you, when I began developing a passion for wine the boards were a good way to interact as my friends weren’t nearly as passionate.

Regarding Palmer, I too have a soft spot for the producer which really marries feminine grace and complexity with soaring aromatics and excellent mouthfeel. However, I think an argument could be made that a stylistic shift occured at the vineyard when Thomas took over in the 2004 vintage. We had the pleasure of dining with Thomas in DC in 2010 where he explained the changes he made when he came over from Ornellaia.

First and foremost, they did more parcel segregation, effectively categorizing the less mature plots which have gone into Alter Ego. This practice is seemingly occuring across many top-notch producers (draconian yields at Lafite, Phillipe Dalhuin undertaking a similar categorization at Mouton starting in 2006 etc…) given the arms race for quality over quantity. This may likely be directly correlated to Parker’s tendency to throw big points at dense/blackhole barrel samples (I kid, but only half). There is no longer a financial motive for having some of the surmaturite lots in the grand cru, but I often find that these are the grapes that can round a wine and provide it complexity and lift instead of density and power…

In early 2011 we organized a blind tasting of 2005 Margaux which included Palmer alongside Malescot, Rauzan Segla/Gassies and a dozen or so other wines (Ch. Margaux unfortunately was not present). People were shocked when Palmer was revealed as it was indeed powerful and massive but a bit over-the-top, as you duly noted.

The question is if this is a stage of the wine’s adolescence, given its apparent longevity, or if there has been a stylistic shift at the chateau which may or may not produce wines of the same tenor of Palmer’s historic past. Time will tell, but I think the dialgue with the delightful Mssr Duroux would be a great venue for further exploration.


Thanks for the welcome Faryan! It will certainly be interesting to start that dialogue with Thomas. As you point out, the question of where these wines are going is of real importance for those of us who are attracted to Palmer for its delicate character and femininity. For me, the most appealing quality of mature Palmer is the elegance and complexity of the aromatics. This new style of wine in vintages like 2005 is almost overbearing, the association with fruit preserves occurs for me, and this attribute is particularly obvious on the nose…I too am curious how these wines will show in say 20 years. My hope is that time will at least in part help it resolve, but given the concentration of these wines I am reluctant to think they will reach the same heights of what we consider to be the best expression of Palmer. That being said, I don’t think Thomas is making bad wines and many have saluted his efforts for what he has done at Palmer, but it is a clear stylistic departure and one I am not sure I like.