Château Palmer has been amongst the very best wines Bordeaux has made in the last three vintages [2011, 2012 and 2013]. Obviously the expectation was that Palmer should really deliver the goods in 2014 given the beautiful Indian summer that saved the growing season. Certainly Palmer 2014 has depth and length, with plenty of rich fruit and density on the palate. It is also proportional and tightly focused. Still whether it is the best vintage here since 2010 remains a tricky question, less because of the undoubted quality of the wine, but more because Palmer succeeded remarkably well in 2011 and 2012. Alter Ego, the more forward expression of Palmer’s terroir, is an admirable effort in 2014. It has lots of enjoyable black cherry tones and that pretty, enticing Margaux perfume.
As elsewhere, it was the weather in July and August that caused concern in 2014. The wet and cool conditions were not conducive to grape ripening, and it was only the undiluted heat and sun that arrived in late August and ran almost unbroken to the end of the harvest here [October 14] that saved the day. In the end, ripe grapes were harvested in unhurried conditions [contrasting with 2013’s debacle]. Healthy fruit also allowed Château Palmer’s winemaker Thomas Duroux to continue his work towards a biodynamic approach. Accordingly no sulphur was added to the grapes at harvest in 2014.
The results are undoubtedly excellent. The grand vin shows more structure and seriousness than sibling Alter Ego, which with its shorter macerations and cooler ferment temperatures, has greater emphasis on upfront fruit characters.
For devotees of Château Palmer, the price remains something of a bugbear. While the release for 2014 [at 160 euros or the equivalent of £1500/$2300 a case of 12×75] is identical to 2012, Palmer now ranks amongst Bordeaux’s most expensive labels. Liv-Ex analysis reveals that there are four vintages in bottle in the last decade currently cheaper, so the compelling price incentive for an en primeur purchase is perhaps not there. Alter Ego, released at 38.5 euros a bottle [or £370/$566 per 12×75], is up fractionally on 2013 and 2012, but obviously more affordable.
Alter Ego, Margaux, 2014
Mid depth; purple at edge; pretty fruit; some fatness; black cherry; mineral quality; sense of proportion; little perfume lift; extract; structure; little cool sample; little subdued; proportional though with a good finish. Opened up in the glass after ten minutes to reveal perfumed, black cherry notes and lots of extract and texture on the palate. Good stuff! [52% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2019-2028. Tasted 31 March, 2015 at Château Palmer. 90-92
Château Palmer, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2014
Bolder colour; tighter to rim; perfume; mineral note; little closed currently; apparent depth; tight; nice fruit on the palate; tight and focused; layered and pent up; freshness’ clean fruit. Proportional body; nice length; pretty long. Overall very impressive on the palate and the finish. Resin and tautness on the nose; if it is closed it is certainly concentrated and tight; lots of density and focus. Proportional fruit with plenty of extract; lots of chew and density on the finish; extract. Length is excellent. [49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot]. Drink 2021-2035. Tasted 31 March, 2015 at Château Palmer. 94-95+