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The secret codes of the barrel room

Château Palmer, 15/12/2014










In the dim and cool chai... the barrels rest quietly in a monastic atmosphere.  The soul of the wine slumbers here.  Lined up in the shadows and the cool constant temperature of 16°C, these barrels will hold the newborn vintage for quite some time, anywhere from 18 to 21 months. 

As you approach, you'll see inscriptions written in chalk, on the rounded surface of the barrel or on its seal. These secret codes, which are barely visible, allow our craftsmen to closely follow the evolution of each lot. 

Here are a few clues to decipher these secret codes. First the most obvious:  "PA" stands for Palmer, whereas "AE" are the initials of the name of our other wine - Alter Ego.More complicated codes then follow:"E" for Entonnage or Funneling, it is the moment where our wines are funneled into the barrels to begin aging."S" reveals Soutirage or Racking. Through this 'ritualistic ceremony', the wine is revitalized, discarding any undesirable deposits; it is the wine's natural clarification process.

"C" for Collage or Fining which always follows Racking.  It is not an artistically creative technique*, it is the introduction of a fining agent to clarify and stabilize the wine.  This large "C" can be found about fifty days a year, with "SC" - Sortie de Colle or End of fining- following quickly thereafter.


chai 1:3.jpgThese different "letter" codes are written on the interior of a cross and completed with the exact procedure date - day, month, and year. 

Numerous other codes are used in the chai, allowing our team to follow the advancement of various experiments, for example.A circled number or an inconspicuous sign, it is something that only our experts can read.  

But of course, some codes should be kept secret... 

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The Story

Vintage after vintage, the wines of Château Palmer express our vision of an exceptional wine. We believe that it is born of the mysterious trilogy – terroir, history, memory – and all of our efforts are concentrated on bringing it into the world. Distinction, high standards and commitment are the values that guide every choice we make from the vineyard to the table where the wine is served.

Knowing your terroir, your grapes, and your wines – this is a threefold enterprise of patient observation. What seems to be a given is in fact a matter of exacting standards at every moment. To know the terroir you have to become intimately familiar with it. We strive to know the grape variety, subsoil, and exposure of each and every plot but also of each and every row within the plot, as we regard every vine as a unique individual. To know our grapes well, we closely monitor their development until maturity. To know our wines, we taste the batches, the vats, the barrels, and the bottles again and again.

Progress in œnology has provided us with insight into the development of wines. Progress in agronomy has given us a better understanding of the life of our vineyards. This makes for more precision in our interventions as much in the winery as in the vineyards. Applying the best technical innovations in a spirit of reconciliation between science and craftsmanship, we use all relevant means to reveal the unique character of the Palmer terroir with each new vintage.

With the grapes that nature offers us, our job is to create the best possible wine. Is this craftsmanship or artistry? No doubt both. Like skilled craftspeople that love their trade, we select and blend the batches with meticulous care. And like artists, we let ourselves be swept away by the work that is born, as it imposes itself upon our will, surprises, amazes and transcends us.

Kindling desire
Ultimately our goal is to make Château Palmer wines as desirable as can be. To achieve this, everything we do, whether we work in the vineyard, the winery, or in the offices, is informed by high standards and a sense of detail Nothing is left to chance, not the choice of paper for a label, or that of an etching for the wood crates, or of a theme for a reception. 

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Vintage 2013

Characteristics of the vintage

Winter 2013 will remain in the memories of our vineyard craftsmen as one of the dampest of the last few years, significantly complicating their work conditions.

Average temperatures between April 1 and May 31 were the lowest of the decade. Early in the season, our observations showed a delay of about ten days when compared to the 2012 vintage, which was already considered late.
In the month of May, the rainy conditions caused an important amount of coulure in our older Merlots, also affecting the Cabernet Sauvignons. The risk of mildew was, as it had been in 2012, particularly fierce.

Summer weather was then more favorable to us. The month of July was the hottest of the past fourteen years, without being marked by a heat wave. The development of the vines remained stalled on a late growth-cycle and we expected to begin harvesting in early October.

But the month of September held an unpleasant surprise for us: rain, humidity and warm temperatures were our daily due. Dealing with the pressure of botrytis became the determining factor for planning harvest.

We began harvesting on Friday, September 27, with a few of the young Merlots. The next day we increased our pace and, on Sunday, September 29, we harvested
10 hectares in one single day. The Merlots, so important to the identity of our wines, were picked in time and showed a level of phenolic and aromatic maturity that surpassed our expectations.
We continued harvesting at a lively pace with the Petit Verdots and the Cabernet Sauvignons. The concentration of sugar was somewhat inferior to that of the Merlots, but the aromatic palettes were clean and precise, showing no vegetative odors. This confirmed the admirable reaction of the estate’s terroir in such difficult weather conditions, reflecting also the positive influence of the lovely month of July.

During winemaking, the must was handled with care to avoid the extraction of any potentially rustic tannins. We were able to carefully preserve the silky and velvety identity of the estate’s wines.
To find the right expression of this difficult vintage, we held many different tasting sessions, each leading to numerous debates. Finally, only a third of the total production was retained for the final blend of Château Palmer.

Harvest dates: from 09/27/2013 to 10/11/2013


Cabernet Sauvignon: 51%

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

<10 tasting notes

Tasting note

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Written Notes

Oaky, great acidity, on the light side, elegant and with very fine complexity and structure. Will it put on weight when in bottle?


  • 93p
Deep purple red with violet hue and black centre. Very elegant but peristant and complex nose with aroma reminiscent of ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, ripe red peppers, elegant spices and hints of minerality. On the palate well structured and elegant with good length, juicy fruit, balanced tannnins and fine acidity, a very fine and elegant example of the appellation Margaux.
  • 94p



Margaux, Bordeaux

Inside Information

Decanter, Steven Spurrier, 04/26/2013
« Magnificent black-red, wonderful concentration with velvety density of texture, superbly rich yet elegant, exotic yet constrained, great wine.  »

http://www.erobertparker.com, Robert Parker, 04/26/2013
« The 2012 Palmer's inky/purple color is more saturated than most Margaux's, and it offers complex notes of blackberries, cassis, licorice, truffle and spring flowers. The wine is dense, rich and full-bodied with a muscular appeal, but the tannins, as high as they are, are sweet and well-integrated. None of the new oak used during the wine-s upbringing is noticeable. Interestingly, this wine showed no evidence of dilution from the October 7-9 rainfall. I suspect it will require 3-4 years of cellaring, and should last for two decades.

Thomas Duroux produced a brilliant 2012 Palmer that is unquestionably one of the stars of the vintage. High levels of tannin were up there with their best vintages, at least analytically. The final blend of 48% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot results in a style of wine that is totally different than that of its nearby neighbors, Chateau Margaux, Rauzan-Segla and Malescot St.-Exupery. »

http://www.jancisrobinson.com, Jancis Robinson, 04/26/2013
« First vintage made in the new chai. Gravity used for the first time. Biggest impact has been on the press wines. IPT almost as high as in 2010.
Sweet and voluptuous on the nose. Then lovely well-integrated freshness on the finish. So gloriously smooth. Just a note of that sweet oak I found a bit too much on the 2009 blind tasting in Southwold, but the fruit is absolutely fantastic. Very appetising.  »

jamessuckling.com, James Suckling, 04/26/2013
« A wine with a vertical palate for the vintage. Deep and rich with polished tannins, beautiful fruit. Layered and very long. Blueberries, hazelnut, cedar and a mineral, creamy character. Fabulous for the vintage. »

La Revue du Vin de France, La Revue du Vin de France, 04/26/2013
« Une fois encore, les rendements sont très faibles à Palmer, ne dépassant pas les 28hl/ha. Les vieux merlots de la propriété constituent le corps et le cœur de ce 2012 au volume superbe. Levin est explosif sur le fruit, l'équilibre est somptueux, porté par une acidité bien calée qui lui confère fraicheur et élégance. très belle esquisse tannique, et grande allonge veloutée. Une réussite majeure du millésime. »

Quarin.com, Jean-Marc Quarin, 04/26/2013
« Couleur sombre, intense et belle. Nez fruité, mûr et un peu discret. Pulpeux en entrée de bouche, très aromatique au milieu, fondant, plus puissant et gras. Ce vin complexe évolue dense et ample avec beaucoup de goût vers une finale savoureuse, finement tramée et particulièrement juteuse. C’est long, très bon avec le moelleux typique du millésime. Un grand succès.
Degré d’alcool 13°5. PH 3.75. IPT 78. Rendement viticole 28 hectolitres à l’hectare. Sélection pour le premier vin 55 %. Un vin construit et ascendant qui m’a impressionné par sa très bonne seconde partie de bouche. Il marque des points là où beaucoup d’autres ont des faiblesses. Pour la première fois, Palmer a assemblé ses lots de cabernet et merlot très tôt, ce qui infère un meilleur fondu. »

The Wine Cellar Insider, Jeff Leve, 04/26/2013
« 2012 Palmer From an assemblage of 48% Merlot, 46% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Interestingly, this is the first time Petit Verdot was included in the blend of Palmer and Alter Ego. Chateau Palmer reached 13.5% alcohol, with a pH of 3.75. The wine will be aged in 70% new, French oak for between 18 and 20 months. Deep in color, with scents of licorice, flowers and fresh juicy plums, the wine is silky, round and soft, with a fresh, black raspberry and herb finish. This is truly successful for the vintage.  »

Wine Enthusiast, Roger Voss, 04/26/2013
« Barrel sample. This is a beautifully crafted wine with red fruits, a touch of black currant, great acidity and dense structure. A blend of half-and-half Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it shows both weight and a great lift. »

Wine Spectator, James Molesworth, 04/26/2013
« Juicy, with a bright leafy note framing the dark plum and blackberry fruit. Lots of singed alder and spice notes flow through the finish, which has solid but integrated grip. A buried iron edge emerges in the end. Tasted non-blind. »

, René Gabriel, 11/30/-0001
« 48 % merlot, 46 % cabernet sauvignon, 6 % petit verdot. Rendement de seulement 28 hectolitres par hectare. Environ 100 000 bouteilles de Palmer. Une robe pourpre très foncée aux reflets violets. Un bouquet infernal aux arômes de cassis avec beaucoup de réglisse et de thé noir, qui affiche des épices nettes et profondes tout en révélant un merlot puissant, raffiné et bouleversant. Les notes de fruits noirs se retrouvent en bouche, beaucoup de vivacité dans les tannins et une astringence de rang royal. La finale présente des arômes de bananes séchées. Pour reprendre les propos du maître de chai de Latour, Jean-Paul Gardère : « Si un vin sent la banane, c'est un grand vin ! » Ce n'est pas ce millésime de Palmer qui le contredira.  »

, René Gabriel, 11/30/-0001
« 48 % Merlot, 46 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 6 % Petit Verdot. Ertrag nur 28 Hektoliter pro Hektar. Etwa 100'000 Flaschen Palmer. Extrem dunkles Purpur mit lila und violetten Reflexen. Höllisches Cassisbouquet, viel Lakritze, Schwarztee, eine tiefe Würze zeigend und gleichzeitig einen finessenreichen, dramatischen Merlotpower in der Nase aufweisend. Im Gaumen bleibt der Wein völlig schwarzbeerig, hat viel Saft in den Tanninen und eine royale Adstringenz, im Finale Aromen von Dörrbananen. Wie sagte der alte Kellermeister von Latour Jean-Paul Gardère jeweils? "Si un vin sent de la Banane - c'est n grand vin!" Recht hatte er mit seiner Bananen-Theorie! »



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 Izak Litwar / The most important Scandinavian Bordeaux Critic, Pro (Denmark)  tasted  Château Palmer 2013  ( Château Palmer )

Oaky, great acidity, on the light side, elegant and with very fine complexity and structure. Will it put on weight when in bottle?


11m 6d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW / Best Sommelier in the World 1998, MW (Germany)  tasted  Château Palmer 2013  ( Château Palmer )

"Deep purple red with violet hue and black centre. Very elegant but peristant and complex nose with aroma reminiscent of ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, ripe red peppers, elegant spices and hints of minerality. On the palate well structured and elegant with good length, juicy fruit, balanced tannnins and fine acidity, a very fine and elegant example of the appellation Margaux. "

1y 9m ago

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