1855 Classification is arguably one of the most important piece of history in Bordeaux, this classification is still appreciated after 162 years! Many Chateaux fate was determined by the 1855 Classification. The wines by the barrel were priced accordingly to the ranking of the Chateaux. High ranking Chateaux earned good money to sustain and reinvest in their cellar, some of the less well-known Chateaux that didn’t make it to the classification struggled.
Chateau Margaux is the only First Growth Chateaux in Margaux, whereas Chateau Palmer was in Third Growth along with 13 other lesser known Chateaux. Although Palmer is the most famous Chateau of the Third Growth, Palmer has consistently been labeled as one of the “Super Seconds”, their quality is almost First Growth and their prices are higher than most Second Growth wines. The truth is Palmer outperforms all the Third Growth and most of Second Growth wines. Once in a while, Palmer is comparable with Chateau Margaux if not better than!
What are the differences between Chateau Margaux and Chateau Palmer?
Chateau Palmer and Margaux are pretty much next door neighbours, but their wines are stylistically very different in style and character.
Stylistically Chateau Margaux is said to be the most elegant of the whole First Growth, I find myself using words like “opulence, perfume, soft and seductive” when writing about Margaux, no doubt First Growth in the making. Palmer is generally elegant and perhaps a bit more ‘masculine‘ than Chateau Margaux, rich and silky, it is heavier on oak spices on the nose (even though Palmer uses less new oak than Ch Margaux).
Vineyard and Production
Chateau Palmer has 66 hectare of vineyards, planted with 47% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. What makes Palmer special is in the soil, Palmer has an unusually high proportion of Merlot, planted on the top slopes, clay soil and some of the best gravel soil parcels offering a warmer climate.
Palmer has one of the most obscure vintage charts in the whole left bank Bordeaux. In my opinion, Chateaux Palmer underperformed in a few vintages, i.e. 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2003. Interestingly, Palmer made excellent wines in 1983, 1999, and surprisingly 2004.
The 1960 was unfortunately stuck between two of the most exceptional vintages in Bordeaux, 1959 and 1961. The 1960 Palmer is a delicate and light wine, drinkable but not the usual rich and bold Palmer we know of. Clean nose of black tea, tobacco, mellow cherry fruit and subtle forest floor. Some dilution but very smooth and easy to drink. If served blind, one might call this a mature Pommard instead. I wonder if this wine was chaptalised? (85/100) Tasted 3 May 2018
This is my second Palmer 1970 this week. What was incredible was both bottles came from the same source, but they both showed very different characters. This bottle has a slightly higher fill level but cork was an inch below the top of the neck. A bit fresher than the first bottle with a more moderate-intensity nose. Beautiful perfumes and mature claret aromas – cedar, cigar box, red plums. Fragrant nose and good length, menthol, tobacco, earth. Not much structure left but gorgeous to drink today. (92/100) Tasted 1 April 2017
Incredibly perfumed on the nose with rustic characters. Weaker on the palate but compensated with the sensuous aromas.After more than 45 years in the bottle, the aromas is fabulously floral driven. 1970 Palmer is a vintage where merlot speaks quite loudly in the most seductive way for Palmer. This bottle is fully mature, a pop and pour bottle. Touch of fading edges, soft red fruits, cedar, cherry, red plum. Sweet scented nose with rustic character, small amount of smooth tannins and silky texture. Intoxicating aromas, even though it won’t improve, I wouldn’t mind having a few bottles at home to drink! (93/100) Tasted 18 March 2017
Palmer is really an odd one out, it managed to outperform most Chateaux in odd vintages like 83, 89, 99, 04. But for some reason, they failed to make brilliant wine in this spectacular vintage, 1982. Fully mature, considerably less powerful than ’83 Palmer, but full of lovely mature flavours, shows good ripeness and chubby merlot flavours from a warm year. Missing some depth and concentration. Nonetheless it’s always a treat to drink mature Bordeaux! (92/100) Tasted 16 January 2017
1983 Palmer is robust and gorgeous at the same time. Incredibly concentrated and powerful, very full and complex. It’s got great amount of silky tannins and smoked flavours. Sexy Palmer nose, great concentration and huge structure. A little bit restrained and not showing the usual perfumes, but it’s still very intense and floral. A powerful wine with elegance. The definition of great! At its peak but there seems to be some baby fat left, no doubt it will still be drinking well in 20 years time! (95+/100) Tasted 25 February 2017
Muscular, very perfumed. Wine of the vintage? No doubt the best Palmer to drink now. Margaux terroir driven, masculine style, very bold but linear. Fully mature, Very much Palmer like, some classic Palmer dark berries, smoked spices and tobacco. Good roundness but still lacking some of the sweetness and finesse of a first growth. Powerful and compelling. Compared with Haut Brion 1989, this was weaker and lacking in power and grace. Haut Brion 89 won by a mile. (95/100) Tasted 22 November 2016
1989 is one of the best vintages of Palmer. Meaty, dried rose pedals, rich and complex. Sweet and delicate fragrant of Merlot. Fragrant of Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon structure on the palate. Much more seductive than 1990. Silky tannins, much softer than the beast mode 1983. Herbal earthy charming aromas of classic Bordeaux. This 1989 Palmer is fully mature but will last for another decade. (94/100) Tasted 20 August 2017
This bottle of 1990 Palmer with half a label left performed better than my last bottle I had two years ago from a reliable U.K. cellar. Fragrant and charming, scented eucalyptus and plush fruit characteristics of 1990, very fragrant and seductive. 1990 Palmer has an extrovert personality unlike the dark and complex 1983, which is still so tight and needed a long decant. At its peak and drinking well now with another few decades of life left. (92/100) Tasted 22 July 2018
Good perfume, rustic Palmer approaching full maturity. Cedar wood, cassis, good charm and spices. Sexy but not as powerful as 83 or 89. Lovely elegant scents and silky tannins. Mellow for a Palmer. No hurry to drink it, but doubtful it will improve. (91/100) Tasted 27 November 2016
Palmer 1991 once again proved they perform well in mediocre vintages. I’ve had a few 91′ Bordeaux, all of those I’ve tasted were very poor and should be avoided, except Palmer! There is a real charm of Palmer and lushness in this light bodied, soft-edged wine. Creamy vanilla oak, black cherries and smokey spices. They managed to hide away the unappealing green pepper, vegetal notes quite well. Fully mature and need not be decanted. Bravo! (86/100) Tasted 21 December 2016
Shy initially with a bit of dampness, lasted for around 15 minutes. Complex aromatics filled with sun dried tomatoes, rich dark berries, sandalwood, tobacco marinated meat and a rich round nose. Big smooth structure, concentrated juice and Earth scents, gentle acidity, full-bodied and chewy tannins, seductive. (90-92/100) Tasted 23 January 2016
A remarkable vintage for Palmer. Perfumed concentrated dark fruits, violets, cassis, plums, pencil shavings, oak smoke, cinnamon and nutmeg, exotic, powerful, tobacco, trace of greenness. Very approachable and open. Full bodied, fairly solid acidity, sexy aromas, multidimensional, great length with silky texture. This is one of the most expressive Palmer of all! (94+/100) Tasted 20 July 2016
Creamy nose of red plums, blackcurrant, powerful Palmer oak toast and cigar box filled with spices. Desirable concentration of 2001 with hints of lavender. 15 years old the nose is still young and vibrant with only a touch of tertiary aromas – no problem leaving it for another 10 years+. Very well balanced and decent vintage for Palmer. Great acidity, good weight and the classic Palmer tannic style on the palate. Very spicy with black peppers, cassis, tar, plums, and traces of pencil shavings. (93/100) Tasted 18 July 2016
This 2004 is lush and generous with close to first growth depth and wood quality. Sweet dark plums and cassis with deeply fused spices and smoke. Full bodied with lovely underlying acidity and soft (yet ample) tannins. A wine well worth cellaring. (93-94/100) Tasted 15 September 2018
Re-tasted and I must move my score up! Gorgeous summer flowers and sweet ripe plums and dark cherries. Again, the distinctive powerful oak toast and sexy spice rack of Palmer. Excellent concentration and well balanced aromas of fresh red and dark fruits with layered spices and tobacco. Hints of Chinese five spices and cinnamon roll. Extremely tannic and full bodied, lovely acidity and complex aromas on the palate, long impressive finish. Well worth cellaring 04 Palmer! Not too badly priced. (94/100) Tasted 6 July 2016
2004 Palmer would still be a wonderful wine for those who enjoy the ‘classic’ Palmer, full-bodied, rich, sophisticated and elegant. Mature smoked meat, barnyard and dried herbs of Margaux. Ample spices and minor tone fruits of cherry, and blackberry. Lots of softish tannins which also makes it approachable now. (91/100) Tasted 16 April 2016
STUNNING first growth quality in Palmer 2005!!! Less than half the price of first growth 2005, Palmer has already figured out the best ingredients to make an impressive wine for the high scores, hence they’re also more aggressive with their pricing. Hibernating beast. Signs of maturity, incredibly big on alcohol and spices, cassis, blackberry, tobacco, meaty, touch of prune, forest floor and trace of floral note. Tannic, full, highly extracted style, herbs, wild and intense long finish.Drink from 2020+. (96+/100) Tasted 29 April 2016
GORGEOUS! A serious, complex wine with wonderful richness and opulence. Could this be the next 1983 Palmer in 30years time? 2010 Palmer is a blend of 54% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Full, full body with very high alcohol, high tannins, and intense aromas, all of which extremely well-balanced. Lavish oak spices and smoke, rich sweet fruits, perfumed opening, plums, and creme de cassis, a First growth quality. Persistent concentration and focused, utterly sensational. (97-98/100) Tasted 29 April 2016