Château Palmer’s 2012 is very impressive and follows on from a trio of highly successful vintages here spanning 2009-2011. The improvements and the consistency achieved under the leadership of managing director Thomas Duroux now make Palmer one of Bordeaux’s stand-out wines, year in, year out. The heights to which Palmer can soar are well known – 1961, 1983, 1989 – but it’s the inconsistency that’s been ironed out. Unquestionably Palmer is now on the same qualitative pedestal as Château Margaux, if often its stylistic opposite, usually plusher and more seductive in style. The only issue this year is the price. I think it’s fair to say most people were hoping to see more than 1% trimmed off the tag but least it hasn’t gone up! Thank heavens for small mercies.
Once again the crop at Palmer was extremely low [28 hl/ha]. This was always going to be the case following on from the record-breaking low yields of 2011. It was a wet spring, there was some coulure on the Merlot, then a wet early summer was followed by dry and frequently hot weather from mid-July onwards. The rain returned in time for the harvest, which occurred at great speed between October 1-15. The low yields and general vineyard health meant that the quality was not unduly affected by the weather. The Merlot was [evidently] superb but Duroux wasn’t displeased with the Cabernet which, though fresher, coming in a 12-12.5 degrees, blended nicely with the Merlot, which is marginally in the majority in both Château Palmer and Alter Ego. There’s a fair dollop of Petit Verdot in both, which adds a structural component and backbone. In the cellar they also deliberately took their foot off the pedal a little in terms of extraction and also fermented at slightly lower temperatures. The results: delicious and nicely balanced wines.
Alter Ego is really engaging and a joy to drink already. Duroux doesn’t see this as ‘the crap’ that doesn’t make it into the grand vin, more an alternative style, more forward and up-front. Given the price hikes here over the last five years, this still remains reasonable value, something definitely to consider on price/quality terms [even in 2012]. It is a wine high-up on Bordeaux’s sheer enjoyability index.
Château Palmer itself is an interesting counterpoint to 2011’s structured and serious effort. They expect it to mature sooner, though there is plenty of power here [and still some oak to integrate] but this should prove very attractive early on. Outside of Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, Haut-Brion in Pessac and immediate neighbour and rival Château Margaux [in an entirely different style], Palmer certainly stakes a claim to being amongst the best ‘Left Bank’ reds in 2012.
Deep and saturated; very bright; tight to edge; lots of ripe fruit on the nose; pretty; almost some fatness; lush and layered; very sweet and ripe entry; lush fruit; nice tension on the finish; very polished but lots of pretty fruit. 51% Merlot, 40% Cabernet 9% PV 13.4 alcohol. 91-93. Tasted at Château Palmer Thursday April 11, 2013.
Deep and saturated; colour right up to rim; lots of saturated fruit with a little oak present at the edge; very deep; focused and precise; very plush too; lots of saturation on the palate; voluptuous and yet also a lot of density and layers to this; very nice length and excellent concentration for the vintage. Will be a beauty early on. 13.5 degrees alc, 48% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. 95-96+ Tasted at Château Palmer Thursday April 11, 2013.