If Chateau Margaux and Pavillon Rouge are examples of reserved beauty, the wines of Palmer are decadent, hedonistic and aristocratic in an altogether flamboyant, exuberant style. The grand vin tips the scales at 14.5% alcohol, even more than the Alter Ego, but again, the freshness and concentration of fruit mask the alcohol and one is left with a sense of tension, freshness and lift. Produced from 54% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot, the 2010 Palmer is one of the most stylish offerings we have tasted from this estate. The brooding fragrant bouquet exhibits notes of liquorice, savoury earthy notes, flowers, kirsch and tobacco. It is a veritable smorgasbord of flavours. The attack is packed with griotte cherries, crème de mûre, fruits of the forest, cool cassis and soft plums. As one would expect, this is decadent, opulent, sumptuous and very sexy. The flavours are intense and beautifully poised. Palmer have produced a wine of outstanding class, effortless power, wonderful tension and acidity; all wrapped in beautifully crafted tannins. Exquisite!
The eponymous General Charles Palmer purchased this estate in 1814 having stumbled across the region whilst making his way back home after the Battle of Toulouse. The General moved in high society and marketed his wine successfully in London. The current owners are the Sichel family and the negociant company Mahler-Besse. The vineyards are renowned for their high percentage of Merlot plantings (47%); contrary to the popular theory that one plants one’s best gravel croupes with Cabernet Sauvignon. It is this high percentage of Merlot that gives the wine such a seductive texture and such an exotic character. The estate’s second wine, Alter Ego (previously Reserve de General) is also excellent.
The wines tend to show more perfume and roundness than neighbour St-Julien, Pauillac, and St-Estèphe, whilst retaining a certain structure and concentration. Margaux is the most southerly and most extensive of the famous Médoc communes, a patchwork of vineyards with lesser parcels classed purely as Haut-Médoc. A myriad of soil mixtures can be found, clay, limestone, and gravel. Though quality is not always consistent here, the potential is great as more Margaux properties were included in the 1855 classification of the Médoc and Graves than any other appellation.
The two leading lights are the highly sought after Châteaux Margaux and Palmer, though there are several other solid performers including Brane-Cantenac, Rauzan-Ségla, Durfort-Vivens, Lascombes, Giscours, Ferrières, Malescot St Exupery and Luc Thienpont’s new boutique vineyard, Clos des Quatre Vents.