Annual Production (Grand Vin)
Troisiemes Crus (Third-Growths)
Alter Ego de Palmer
It was for Chateau Palmer’s fabulous 1961 vintage that the term ‘Super Second’ was coined.
This is an estate which suffered due to a lack of investment just prior to the 1855 Classification and which critics have said would most likely have been rated as a Second-Growth chateau had its potential been properly exploited in these years. Nevertheless, Chateau Palmer has done everything to show its true worth since and has regularly punched above its weight- especially since the arrival of Thomas Duroux in 2004. The wine here has often superseded the quality of that produced at neighbouring First-Growth Chateau Margaux during his tenure and even beforehand.
The chateau has a fantastic heritage, having been very popular with Victorian London high society thanks to Colonel Palmer’s connections to the British royal family. Records show that ‘Palmer’s Claret’ even regularly graced the King’s table! It is this status as heritage claret which the estate management celebrated in 2004 with the release of a boutique cuvee label, ‘Historical XIX Century’. This wine, a nostalgic blend incorporating 15% Syrah grapes from the Rhone, and of which only 100 cases have been produced in each vintage, is now a must-have for dedicated wine collectors- especially the divine first vintage, 2004.
Chateau Palmer is also forward-thinking when it comes to their product, recently employing optical sorting techniques and other technological advances such as the ProofTag system in a stand against counterfeiting. For 2008 and 2009, spectacular wines have been produced that have garnered 94 and 97 RPJ points respectively, with the latter named by Robert Parker at aHong Kong tasting in 2011 as part of his ‘Magical 20’- wines that are of ‘first-growth quality’ but are ‘nonetheless undervalued and are smart acquisitions’. Thanks to the introduction of optical sorting, the 2011 vintage has been produced from the lowest yield since that legendary 1961, with only the very best grapes making the cut. Thus it is expected to be a wine, not only of fearsomely great quality, but also of a limited release size that should ensure a high level of demand and guaranteed growth.
The 2005 and 2009 are among the top-rated vintages ever to emerge from Chateau Palmer, garnering 97 RPJ points each. Could the 2011 top even them? The dry, hot weather favoured properties in the Margaux appellation and in barrel tastings, Palmer 2011 has earned a initial critic range of 92-94+ points. Robert Parker called it “remarkably velvety and sweet. This opaque purple-colored, dense, concentrated, full-bodied wine will need time to totally form its personality... a big, boisterous, concentrated wine that should age for 25-30 or more years.” This rating range sits at most 2 points beneath neighbouring First-Growth Chateau Margaux, itself a candidate for best in vintage and with the Super-Second’s asking price less than 40% of that of the First Growth but exhibiting a similar character, Chateau Palmer 2011 is an arresting option.
Colonel Charles Palmer, the estate’s namesake, was a military man who arrived in Bordeaux with the Duke of Wellington’s army. He purchased it from recently-widowed Marie le Gasq in a chance meeting, though he shortly returned to London, hiring a manager in his stead. Palmer added significant tracts of land to the estate and his high social standing and friendship with the Prince Regent ensured Chateau Palmer became popular with London high society early on. A sale followed to the Pereires, whose ownership spanned difficult years including the phylloxera epidemic, the Depression and WWI. In 1938, a consortium of wine merchant families bought shares in the estate and under their control it truly realised its potential. In numerous years, it outshone neighbouring First-Growth Chateau Margaux and the 1961 vintage, now considered one of the greatest ever Bordeaux wines, precipitated the coining of the term ‘Super-Second’ (despite Palmer technically being a Third-Growth). By the 1980s, the chateau was owned by the descendants of two of the original families - Sichel and Mahler - an arrangement that continues today. In 2004, Thomas Duroux took the helm as estate manager and brought even more glory to Chateau Palmer- producing some of the finest vintages ever.