It was a short drive to our 3pm appointment at Palmer where we were welcomed by Celine, the PR Director. As she walked us to the vineyard, it felt as if it were in the high 80’s F and we wished we had brought lighter clothing. Palmer has always been a personal favorite of ours as a special occasion wine, and it was nice to finally visit the chateau. Celine informed us that they have 55 hectares and adjoin Chateau Margaux. They have no clay, and are primarily gravel with sand – situated on the top of the Margaux terrace. The vines average 40 years old with 47% merlot; 47% cab, and 6% PV. What is unique about Palmer is that the owners decided to plant so much merlot on the best land – which is normally reserved for cab. This is because they love merlot – it is a “heart decision” – and the results show in such an elegant velvety wine.
The vineyard practices and winemaking are rather traditional. Vineyard: 1 by 1m spacing, 10,000 vines per hectare; rootstock – 3309 and Ripara. 8 buds per vine; luttee raisonnee; green harvest in July. They also employ Danish students for harvest and have 40 full-time employees.
Winemaking: triage; destem/light crush; ferment with selected yeast (F13) in cone-shaped stainless (49 different sizes) at 28-29C for 8-10 days alcoholic – 20 days total maceration. Delestage. ML in both tanks and barrel. Vertical press with 10-15% of pressed wine in gran vin. Age 21 months in 50-55% new oak (16 months in 25-30% new for 2nd label); medium to medium+ toast with 6 coopers. Top every 2 weeks for first 3 months; then every 3 months with racking. Fine in oak with 5 egg whites per barrel (boxed eggs); followed by 2 more rackings. Blend in February. Finish in June. Light filter before bottling.
We tasted 4 wines: 2001 Alter Ego Palmer – 67% merlot; ruby; nose of earth and violets; complex palate with leather and dark fruit. 2008 Alter Ego Palmer – opaque red-purple; bright grapey nose; ripe on palate with velvety tannins and moderate complexity. 2008 Chateau Palmer – 51% merlot; opaque red-purple with black depths; very floral nose with dark fruit and minerality; Concentrated; velvety tannins; long finish. 1996 Chateau Palmer – opaque dark garnet; secondary notes of truffle and leather; very fresh on the palate with great acid, coffee and dark fruit. Complex; very long finish. Yes!