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Bordeaux 2015: Château Palmer

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_0887Château Palmer is currently on-song. It has hit top marks in virtually every vintage in the past decade. The 2015 continues this run of form in an exceptional way. There is no doubt that the growing season and rainfall pattern in September favoured the Margaux appellation over everywhere else in the Médoc. Many properties here have made some of their best ever wines. At Palmer they have produced a powerful Margaux that easily rivals 2009 and 2010. It may even surpass them. The fruit qualities are glorious. Despite the concentration there is harmony and a tannic structure that is remarkably supple. It is the classic iron fist in a velvet glove.

It has now been a decade or so that Château Palmer has been under the ferociously intelligent leadership of Thomas Duroux. It is no coincidence that some of Palmer’s best ever wines have been produced under his tenure. These are true to the past glories [1961, 1966, 1983, 1989 – I’ve not had younger I’m afraid] but there is added sophistication and much greater consistency today in a glass of Palmer. The estate is also now biodynamically farmed. It takes five words to say, but a thousand to do it philosophical justice [and I haven’t the time]. There is no doubt that this approach is key to the recent successes here. Duroux believes it lends greater clarity, definition and personality to the wine.

As elsewhere the 2015 growing season started well. Good conditions allowed for a quick and even flowering. Early summer was hot and dry and vine growth later slowed in the conditions. From late July onwards wet spells spurred growth and enabled a quick and even veraison. September was cool but importantly dry. The appellation was in fact the driest in the Médoc. The harvest began with young vine Merlot on September 15, with the harvest proper beginning September 22. Duroux describes a lovely vintage in which the fruit was fresh and aromatic but also high in alcoholic potential and low in acidity. The skins and pips were wonderfully ripe. Picking was completed on October 7.

IMG_0885Thomas Duroux: Palmer 2015 ‘Tender yet powerful” 

Thomas Duroux believes the wine sits in the same league as 2005, 2009 and 2010. “It has the charm of 2009, the precision of 2010 and the openness of 2005. Tender yet powerful.”

There is no doubt that Palmer has produced a belter in 2015. It is deep and long, with layered aromatic fruit tones. The palate is wonderful and delicious. There is also tremendous length. Alter Ego, not a second wine so much as a different interpretation of the Palmer terroir, has freshness and a satisfying texture this year. It’s a label that was first introduced in 1998, but stylistically more what Duroux has been after since 2006. The wine is treated differently from Palmer itself, with lower temperature ferments and less extractive winemaking. The emphasis is on earlier drinkability.

The following notes were taken on Tuesday 5th April, 2016.

Alter Ego, Margaux, 2015

Mid depth, earthy purple; lots of fruit; quite strong; fatness here; but also some strength; fresh acidity; good texture; elegant style; supple at the end; some sap and chew on the finish but satisfying. [52% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 37hl/ha]. Drink 2020-2030. 90-92+

Château Palmer, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2015

Deep and saturated colour; very healthy looking; colour tight to the rim; intense and jam packed on the nose; tight seam of fruit; very pent up ball of fruit here; some violet lift on aeration; great palate – very full; concentrated but with great suppleness to the tannins; this is concentrated; super concentration and power but without any sense of over extraction; excellent length. Terrific Palmer. Knocking on the door of 2009 & 2010. [50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 14.1% alc 70% new oak]. Drink 2023-2040. 96-98+

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