Possibly the most talked about estate in the vintage, with its mildew-induced 11hl/ha yields making waves all the way back at harvest time. They made it through though, and have made an exceptional wine that will clearly be discussed and enjoyed for years to come. There's no denying that the yields have had an impact - even in the colour you see a rich, velvety density with the violet edging that suggests a good pH (it's 3.83, so a touch higher than usual). There is a stunning sweetness to the cassis and bilberry fruits, and it retains the finesse and floral aromatics of Palmer even with the concentration, complexity and depth on show here. It also has the signature of the vintage, and despite the volume of tannins it feels silky and seductive, and you wonder if it will close down at all. This certainly has a long life ahead of it. Sadly there is no Alter Ego in 2018, for the first time since it was created in 1998, with the production of the grand vin down by about 50% on a normal year. Harvest ran from 13 September to 15 October, and 90% of production went into the grand vin due to the low yields. No sulphur was added to the fruit until after malo, and it is aged in 70% new oak, already barely discernible. Thomas Duroux said, by the way, that if mildew pressure happened again to this extent, he would treat despite his strong commitment to biodynamics. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. 98-100 points.
It is the essence of cabernet fruit with density that is so thick that it has the texture of grape puree. Full body and melted tannins that give the wine a sense of velvet. Very soft and juicy. With air, it goes to bright, crushed black currants. Tar. Fresh tannins give it energy. I have never tasted anything like this in all my 38 years as a wine critic in Bordeaux. From tiny berries of cabernet sauvignon (53 per cent), 40 per cent merlot and seven per cent petit verdot.
Analytically the most powerful Palmer ever in terms of the tannins and the alcohol. Thanks to mildew, their yields were a measly 11 hl/ha and the total production about 6,000 cases. No Alter Ego this year. ‘A wine that will mark the history of the property’, according to technical director Thomas Duroux, like 1961. ‘A miracle from the vintage’, he thinks. 40% Merlot, 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot. Harvested 13 September to 15 October. Barrel sample. Black with barely a purple rim. Intense, concentrated cassis and blackberry, super-ripe but absolutely not overripe, a little bit of alcohol on the nose, lightly floral even with all this concentration. Very dark, almost a little tarry, black olive. Dark and rocky. On the palate, incredible concentration and density but with no thickness or astringency. So dense but so clean-lined and precise. Tannins are dry and compact but smooth and there’s an amazing freshness that seems to come from the compact tannins. And your mouth feels clean on the finish. So moreish even though at the moment you would have to take small sips. Great finesse to the texture even in such a big wine. Dark, dark and savoury on the finish. No sweetness even though the fruit is pure and ripe. (JH) 14.3% Drink 2028-2045
40% merlot, 53% Cabernet and 7% Petit Verdot. 90% of the tiny 11hl/ha production was used for the Gran Vin. There’s no Alter Ego produced this year. Intense plum, bright red fruit characters, this is a very attractive wine. Wonderful mid palate, the wine feels alive there’s a concentration but not a richness, it’s exceptionally well crafted. The tannins are super ripe with an underlying delicate grain to them. The finish has a depth of fruit and a wonderful freshness. 2018 was definitely a very challenging year for the team at Chateau Palmer, the resulting wine is sensational and a credit to the whole team there.
The 2018 Palmer is composed of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. Grapes were harvested September 13 to October 15, and the wine has a 3.83 pH and 14.3% alcohol. Very deep purple-black in color, the nose is a little reticent to begin, but with coaxing, it slowly emerges to show fragrant violets, underbrush, mossy bark and iron ore with exponentially growing notions of crème de cassis, Black Forest cake, plum preserves, hoisin, Christmas cake and red roses with wafts of dusty earth, Indian spices and cracked black pepper. Full-bodied, concentrated and downright powerful in the mouth, it has a solid structure of firm, wonderfully plush tannins and masses of fragrant accents, finishing very long and very spicy. By the time I finished tasting this, the nose had exploded in this fragrant bomb of fruit, earth and floral notions. This is one of those 2018 wines that has a beguiling brightness that comes from the many floral, spice and mineral accents among all that rich fruit. WOW!