With a yield of 11hl/ha, no Alter Ego this year, and half the normal production of the Grand Vine, this is a wine that will be in very short supply. Following mildew in June, there was just one bunch per vine, allowing almost remarkable intensity in the wine. Indeed, there’s a higher IPT reading (the reading used to measure density of tannins) than in the supercharged 2010. However, the wine remains remarkably elegant, with a cool, mineral styling and a mouthfeel that leaves you weak at the knees. A remarkable wine, and one that you’ll have to secure on first release.
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!
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.
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.
The 2018 Palmer is a freak of nature from yields of just 11 hectoliters per hectare harvested over an entire month by CEO Thomas Duroux and his team. Rich, unctuous and flamboyant in its ripeness, the 2018 possesses off the charts intensity from start to finish. Blackberry jam, espresso, crème de cassis, licorice, menthol, lavender and cloves develop in a palate-staining, hedonistic Palmer that oozes with personality. This extravagantly ripe Margaux won't be for everyone, but it is a stunning, head-spinning wine that may, in time, very well join the ranks of the truly epic Palmers. A wine of pure and total pleasure, the 2018 is nearly impossible to resist. The blend is 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot. In 2018, Palmer bottled just their Grand Vin and no Alter Ego.
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