About this WINE
Château Palmer is a leading wine estate in the Margaux appellation on the Left Bank of Bordeaux. Though officially ranked a third growth in 1855, the quality of its wines has firmly established Palmer as a top Super Second.
Within its appellation, Palmer is the closest rival to their first growth neighbour, Château Margaux. At their best, such as with the legendary 1961 vintage, the wines of Château Palmer are among the greatest anywhere in Bordeaux. Since 2004, the estate has been led by the charismatic and ambitious Thomas Duroux. Bordeaux native Duroux became the estate’s Director aged just 34, following a stint making wine in Bolgheri at Ornellaia. The technical team began experimenting with biodynamic farming in 2009 and today Palmer is among the leading biodynamic vineyards in Bordeaux. A growing number of classified growths have since started to follow the example of Palmer and its fellow early adopters Pontet-Canet and Climens.
Situated in the commune of Cantenac, the property lies just outside the village of Margaux proper. Its 66 hectares of vines sit upon a gravel terrace overlooking the Gironde estuary. The old Médocain adage that the best vineyards have a view of the river is lent some credence here. The vineyard is planted in equal parts to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (47% each), balanced with a little Petit Verdot (6%). The relatively high Merlot content is unusual for the Grands Crus of the Médoc, lending Palmer a unique style for the Left Bank.
The estate dates to the 17th century, though it was not until 1814 that Englishman Charles Palmer took ownership and gave it his name. A future major general of the British army, Palmer spent 30 years expanding the property and, shrewdly, developing the reputation of “Palmer’s Claret” in the thriving UK market. His successors, the Pereire brothers, were responsible for building the iconic turreted château that was completed in 1854. In 1938, the estate was bought by four Bordeaux négociant families. The descendants of two – the Sichel and Mähler-Besse families – own the property to this day. In addition to the Grand Vin, the Château Palmer portfolio also includes Alter Ego and Historical XIXth Century Wine.
If Pauillac can be seen as the bastion of ‘traditional’ Red Bordeaux, then Margaux represents its other facet in producing wines that are among Bordeaux’s most sensual and alluring. It is the largest commune in the Médoc, encompassing the communes of Cantenac, Soussans, Arsac and Labaude, in addition to Margaux itself. Located in the centre of the Haut-Médoc, Margaux is the closest of the important communes to the city of Bordeaux.
The soils in Margaux are the lightest and most gravelly of the Médoc, with some also containing a high percentage of sand. Vineyards located in Cantenac and Margaux make up the core of the appelation with the best vineyard sites being located on well-drained slopes, whose lighter soils give Margaux its deft touch and silky perfumes. Further away from the water, there is a greater clay content and the wines are less dramatically perfumed.
Margaux is the most diffuse of all the Médoc appelations with a reputation for scaling the heights with irreproachable wines such as Ch. Margaux and Ch. Palmer, but also plumbing the depths, with too many other châteaux not fulfilling their potential. There has been an upward shift in recent years, but the appellation cannot yet boast the reliability of St Julien. However, the finest Margaux are exquisitely perfumed and models of refinement and subtlety which have few parallels in Bordeaux.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
Neal Martin - 30/05/2016