In one sense Thomas Duroux hasn’t much to show from the 2018 vintage. The effects of rot that tore through Château Palmer’s vineyards in early July led to two-thirds of the crop being entirely lost. The biodynamics practiced here left the vineyards even more exposed to the vagaries of a growing season that was biblically wet in its first half. Yet the remainder of the harvest, a meagre 11 hectolitres per hectare, produced an elixir. It is what Thomas describes analytically, but also qualitatively, as Palmer’s “most powerful wine ever.” If the entire growing season was a “a terrifying experience” for Duroux, Palmer has certainly ended up making one of its most remarkable wines ever.
The first half of the 2018 growing season was marked at Château Palmer by rain, rain and more rain. The ground was saturated with continual precipitation between December 2017 and March 2018, so much so, that the cold, wet ground led to delayed budburst. There was not much let up in the poor weather after, despite some respite during flowering, such that a mildew outbreak of “staggering proportions” was triggered in early July, despite huge efforts on the part of Palmer’s vineyard team to mitigate its effects.
Then, from mid-July onwards, the weather became hot and dry. It set the scene for a remarkable comeback. Veraison [the colour change in the grapes from green to black] began in early August and throughout that month and into September, conditions were glorious. The weather was sunny, the nights were cool and there was hardly a drop of rain. The vines concentrated their energies into the tiny remaining harvest and went on to deliver fruit of exceptional aromatic and phenolic concentration. The harvest occurred between September 13 and October 15 in ideal conditions. Sorting was strict, firstly in the vineyard, and then in the winery, in a harvest process that wouldn’t have been out of place in Sauternes.
The results? The evident power of the wine led to the decision to include all but 10% of the resulting production into the grand vin, with no Alter Ego produced in 2018. The following notes were taken at the property in April this year.
Château Palmer, Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2018
Deep and dark; saturated colour, very tight to the rim; really deep and intense aromatics; brooding element; palate is packed with fruit and has incredible density; Thomas Duroux believes this most dense Palmer ever produced; inky and really concentrated but with freshness and good acidity; lovely texture to the tannins; spices on the finish. Great length. Fascinating wine. [53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 14.3% alc pH 3.83, 65% new oak]. Tasted April 2019. Drink between 2028-2050. 96-98+
The 2018 vintage was a “terrifying experience” for Thomas Duroux