Margaux Focus 2: Château Palmer 


Nothing exciting ever happens on the Southwest train between Guildford to London. Passengers rarely converse. Businessmen gaze out of windows as verdant Surrey countryside whizzes past. Exhausted mothers cart gaggles of hyperactive infants to museums while teenagers gormlessly stare into Smartphones. It’s actually the perfect environment to write. This opening paragraph is being written as my train pulls out of Woking Station. Maybe one day I’ll be tapping away when a demimondaine of uncertain age but opulent charm will catch my eye, and she says: “Pardon me, Sir, but you look like the kind of gentleman who would profit from purchasing a famous Bordeaux château.”

I stop typing, scarcely believing her proposal out of the blue.

“You would be helping me out of a bind if you could take it off my hands.”

By the time our train pulls into Waterloo Station, we have reached a verbal agreement, and I will tootle off to my tasting, startled by my impetuosity and wondering how to explain it to my wife.

If only I could ask Charles Palmer how he explained it to his better half? 

This article examines one of the noblest, most feted and certainly aesthetically pleasing estates in Bordeaux, Château Palmer. As usual, I delve into its storied background up to the present day, then the viticulture and vinification modus operandi after spending a day with CEO Thomas Duroux, and of course, the obligatory vertical tasting of vintages spanning a few decades.


The de Gascq Era

The genesis of the present-day Château Palmer derives from the splintering of the vast d'Issan estate during the 18th century. A section cleaved away by the Foix-Candale family in 1729 underwent a second division in 1748, one part-owned by sisters Marguerite and the magnificently named Hippolyte-Euphrasie. Their plots came into the hands of the de Gascq family, who owned swathes of prime Médoc, though back then, much of it was scrubland. De Gascq’s viticultural know-how fueled viticultural expansion in Margaux and Château de Gascq itself. By the 1760s, their wine was already becoming well-known, and according to the Tastet & Lawton archives, prices were on par with nearby d’Issan. Professor Pijassou estimates that de Gascq spanned as much as 50 hectares of vine by the time of the Revolution.

Charles Palmer, who lends the château its name.

The Rise & Fall of General Palmer

De Gascq is the prelude to the real story of Palmer and Charles Palmer, the Major-General who lends the estate its name. Palmer’s family resided in Bath in the west of England. Their fortune derived from a brewery and chandlery. His father, John Palmer, incepted the first mail-coach service between Bath and London and ran the Bath Theatre Royal, one of only three boasting royal warrants. As a parliamentarian and Mayor of Bath, he achieved high social standing. His son, Charles Palmer, was born on May 6, 1777, and after schooling at Eton and Oxford, joined the 10th Dragoons, a troop that included “Beau” Brummel and the Prince Regent among its alumni. Palmer worked his way up the ranks and served as the Prince Regent’s Aide-de-Camp. He served in the Napoleonic Wars under the Duke of Wellington. It was General Palmer who reached Bordeaux after the Battle of Toulouse in 1814.

This is the backdrop to Palmer’s apocryphal, serendipitous meeting on the Lyon to Paris stagecoach with Marie Brunet de Ferrière, the easy-on-the-eye widow of Blaise Jean Charles Alexandre de Gascq. Her husband had passed away just three days earlier; however, banish scurrilous ideas of Palmer exploiting a widow’s grief since the couple had separated in 1790. She was en route to Paris to expedite the sale of Palmer and explained to her traveling companion that under Napoleonic law she would receive just one-quarter of its value. She extolled her wine by claiming that it was second only to Lafite. By the time the pair arrived in the capital city, General Palmer had a verbal agreement to buy Château de Gascq for the sum of 100,000 Francs. The purchase of the 60-hectare estate is recorded as 16 June 1814, and in the small print, Palmer was obliged to give 500 liters of wine per annum to its erstwhile owner, who resided at the château until March 1815. As it turned out, Palmer didn’t become the legal owner until 1835.

General Palmer resided in England instead of Bordeaux and delegated Paul Estenave, a wine merchant, to maintain its daily running. Meanwhile, Palmer fell out with the Prince Regent and narrowly escaped an untimely demise when obliged to draw pistols against a former member of the Dragoons to retain his honor. After retiring from military life in 1830, Palmer returned to Bordeaux. A man full of grand ideas and boundless enthusiasm, he began expanding the estate with zeal. By 1831, after absorbing around a dozen properties, many sequestered or abandoned after the war, Château Palmer covered 162 hectares of which around half were under vine. This included a wooded area in a lieu-dit called “Boston” near the village of Villefougasse that was cleared and cultivated with vines and also Domaine de Monbrun. Notwithstanding the installation of 15 wooden oak vats, this rapid expansion had cost a princely sum of 370,000 Francs. Consequently, Palmer needed to promote his wine in the most critical market for claret – England. This “hustling” was unusual for its time and makes Palmer a forerunner for today’s proprietors who promote their wines and host dinners. Palmer exploited his connections with aristocracy and the Prince Regent (Lord Yarmouth), pouring his namesake wine for their delectation. This backfired when the Yarmouth vocally complained that Palmer’s wine was “thin and anemic” compared to his own in front of esteemed guests. That sounds like a spiteful act, notwithstanding that his own wine, known as Carbonel, was cut with Hermitage.

The Palmer château.

Whether the criticism was justified or not, it represented a terrible loss of face for Palmer. Yarmouth, who must have fancied himself as a proto Émile Peynaud, advised him to replace all his vines, which Palmer did at immense cost. All this was in tandem with a corrupt intermediary, a shadily-titled London agent named Mr. Gray, charged with the finances as Palmer acquired nearby properties. By all accounts, Gray was embezzling funds. By the 1830s, Palmer’s political career was on the wane, and his bank account had run dry. Mr. Gray had long since been dismissed. Palmer could hardly afford his staff, and debts were mounting. His wife had had enough, and the couple separated without any children. Backed into a corner, a chastened Palmer was forced to sell his assets and began dismembering the estate until 1843, when the final part was sold to Mme Françoise-Marie Bergerac. Who was she? Only a companion of the aforementioned Mr. Gray. It reads like Tarantino doing Dickens. She received the sum of 247,000 Francs, but after months of litigation, the property was sold to Caisse hypothécaire in Paris the following year. Palmer died in 1851. He was not impoverished since he resided in salubrious Mayfair, yet he was a withered and lonely man who must have rued how his life was denied a happy ending.

The first mention of wine dates back to 1824, when the Cru was named De Gascq et Dubignon Ainé. Afterward, the vines were decimated by oïdium, though the estate was still listed as a Third Growth in the 1855 Classification. Conferred with status, the classification predicates a more stable period in the second part of the 19th century. In 1853, the property had passed into the hands of the Portuguese-Jewish Pereire family, who made their fortune in railways and real estate. Brothers Isaac and Émile Pereire, who incidentally had begun their careers working in Baron James de Rothschild’s bank, commissioned architect Charles Burguet to design an ornate château-building that stands today. Burguet had previously helped design Pichon Baron, and it is easy to see their architectural similarities.

Completed in 1856, Palmer is perhaps the most eye-catching Left Bank château, never ceasing to be arresting as it swings into view, driving up the D2 with its exaggerated conical witches’ turrets and slate Mansard roof. Close-up, one can admire the sculpted lintels and its slightly Baroque design. While the eye is drawn to the château building, visitors to Palmer will notice that the outbuildings form a kind of village-like, communal ambiance similar to Montrose or, indeed, Château Margaux, evidence of an era when château workers lived and raised families on château grounds.

The Perieres installed an able regisseur, and his skill, plus their considerable fortunes, were the basis for rehabilitating the vineyard. By 1870, Pijassou states that the 177 hectares contained 109 hectares under vine. At the turn of the century, despite the onslaught of phylloxera necessitating re-grafting onto American rootstock, Palmer was one of the Médoc’s most revered estates. No less than composer Claude Debussy purchased two cases of the 1909 in 1917. However, the Pereire family suffered financially after the First World War and the economic travails that enveloped the Médoc. Decisions could not be made promptly since 30 family members were now shareholders. Consequently, investment stymied, the estate declined and ran at a loss throughout the Thirties like most of the châteaux. Between 1929 and 1937, the vineyard land withered from 65 to 36 hectares, of which 20 hectares were productive.

Graffiti writing at Château Palmer.

The Mähler-Besse/Sichel Consortium

In July 1937, the now decrepit estate was acquired by a consortium of four well-known families: Ginestet, Miailhe, Mähler-Besse and Sichel. Together, they formed a Société Civile, though the Ginestets practically sold their share immediately, and Louis Miailhe did the same in 1950 to focus on Pichon-Comtesse. During the Second World War, Palmer was billeted by Nazi soldiers, so the building fell into a serious state of disrepair. During my visit, Duroux escorted me upstairs to examine graffiti carved into the wood by bored German troops. You can still see a Nazi cross. Examining the words close-up provokes a disquieting feeling of staring directly into a very dark period of history, in a sense, humanizing war.

Following the war, Palmer was essentially “patched up”, and though it produced a series of lauded vintages, it was not until 1962 that it returned to profit. Five years earlier, it had incorporated a small part of Desmirail, and one year earlier, Palmer produced one of the vinous pinnacles of the 20th century. The 1961 Palmer is rightly hailed as the apotheosis of Margaux. I remember speaking about it to the great John Salvi MW several years back. Salvi worked for Sichel at that time and recalled how he rolled barrels of 1961 down to the port since part of the production was bottled overseas. (Though I have never drunk it, Berry Brothers & Rudd’s bottling of the 1961 Palmer is supposedly extraordinary.) Much of the success throughout the post-war period, up to his death in 1965, is attributed to Allan Sichel, head of the English branch of the family, succeeded by his son Peter. They provided a steady keel and continued access to the important English market. Also, one must credit Bertrand Bouteiller, who became régisseur after his father suddenly passed away in 1962 and spent 42 years overseeing its daily running.

From then on, Palmer was firmly established as one of the finest Left Bank estates, second only to Château Margaux within the appellation and occasionally not just matching the First Growths but surpassing them, as it did in 1983. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this was also the first year of a Second Wine, named La Réserve du Géneral in honor of Charles Palmer. During this period, the wine was vinified in oak vats, and de-stalking was done by hand, pushing the bunches through a large sieve instead of using a crusher-de-stemmer. There was also a higher use of new oak. A new stainless-steel cuverie was introduced with the 1995 vintage.

Thomas Duroux out in the vines.

The Duroux Era

I started visiting the estate in the late Nineties at the beginning of my career. I was always received by the amiable Bernard de Laage, who sadly passed away a few months ago. But it was the appointment of a half-French, half-Italian that has unequivocally catapulted Palmer to new heights over the last two decades.

Thomas Duroux was born in Bordeaux, though his mother comes from Modena, Italy. His first job was as an intern for Domaine de Chevalier in 1993. He first came to prominence serving as technical director at Ornellaia from July 2001 to July 2004 before transferring to Palmer. I remember meeting him for the first time when, together with de Laage, they hosted a memorable vertical for the Circle of Wine Writers in London, multiple vintages back to 1961 for the princely sum of ten quid. During his almost 20 years at Palmer, Duroux has become synonymous with the château just as Paul Pontallier did at Château Margaux. Fluent in English and Italian, he is always directly spoken with a wry sense of humor. Not only has Duroux steered the historic estate in new directions, but he serves as an ambassador par excellence.

In his free time, he is an avid music-lover with an enviable vinyl collection. Duroux once sent me a photograph of his audiophile setup that made me extremely jealous, though, of course, it depends on what you play on it. Duroux’s food for his ears is jazz, and some notable jazz musicians have been invited to play at Château Palmer. His favorite artist? Brandon Marsalis. As I have mentioned to Duroux before, I would like jazz if they could play the notes in the correct order and whistle back the melody.

Most biodynamic preparations are done on-site at Château Palmer, including the "500" prep pictured.


Duroux and I spent a damp and overcast morning walking around the vineyard. “The estate is 100 hectares in total,” he explains as we tour the vines, “seventy percent within the Margaux appellation, the rest a mixture of forest and pasture. The vineyard covers 66 hectares with four hectares in rotation [to maintain a productive mixture of young and old vines]. We always wait four or five years before re-planting. The main 30-hectare block is around the château building. I think of that as the heart of Palmer. There are two other blocks, one eight-hectare block three kilometers south near Cantenac and a 12-hectare block known as ‘Boston' around four kilometers that we use for the Alter Ego. There is currently 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, but I think that in 30 years, there will be more Cabernet Sauvignon due to global warming. The oldest parcel was planted in 1936, but half of it had to be pulled out because it was virused. In total, there are 121,000 vines divided over 114 sub-plots, with five teams, each managing their own parcels. The pruning method is taille Médocian, and the rootstock is mostly 3009 and 101-14, also some 402A, which is good for slowing down the ripening and 44-53. We have a massal selection program for cultivating Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Looking back over the vintage blends through the decades, which, incidentally, readers can glean by accessing individual tasting notes, show an incremental change from Merlot to Cabernet Sauvignon. From my earliest visits, Duroux has proselytized their Merlot planted on clay soils that are cut from a different cloth to those on the Right Bank. At Palmer, the variety occupies prime gravel soils, which results in a more structured wine than if the Merlot vines were corralled onto more clayey sectors. Proof of the quality can be divined in the 1961 Palmer, which contains 52% Merlot and just 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. At the time, the château used comparatively more Petit Verdot. Vintages from this period contain around 10% of the variety, sometimes more. Over time, the blend tilted towards more Cabernet Sauvignon, especially from the late-1970s, so that the famous 1983 Palmer is built around 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot comprising a healthy 41% of the blend. Rather than a dominant variety, Palmer is more like a talented duo, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, their Sonny and Cher.

Back out in the vineyard, I asked Duroux about the soil profile and geology.

“The vines lie on a gravel terrace. The first 30cm is a mixture of gravel and sand, and the next 100cm is either gravel-clay or gravel-sand in profile. The root system lies within the gravel-clay strata, while the sand offers good drainage and underlies why there is more Merlot planted at Palmer. Alter Ego’s soils tend to be less clayey. The bedrock is limestone, calcaire de Plassac down to 35-meters and then calcaire de Blaye to 130-meters. The average vine age is 40 years. I try to keep the vines as long as possible and replace them individually. I have a theory that young vines act like old vines.”

Walking through the rows, I ask about the application of biodynamics across the vineyard.

“I look at biodynamism as something where there are no rules,” he answers. “It is an experiment in listening to Nature. I started to experiment in 2008 with one parcel. It was regarded as something done by some ‘crazy guys’ at that time, and it was only three years later, in 2011, that we began finding interesting results. The wines seemed clearer and more detailed. In the beginning, I was a bit stupid about biodynamics. I realize now that everyone has to follow their own path. You must have a holistic vision and view the vineyards as an organism. There is too much BS about biodynamics [i.e., growers claiming to apply its tenets yet bending the rules], so we are certified by Biodyvin and Demeter from the 2018 vintage [like Durfort-Vivens]. Certification was postponed because we bought a few plots in 2015, although I don’t want to advertise being biodynamic, so it’s not on the label.”

Duroux escorted me to where they create the preparations on the other side of the D2 opposite the château, hidden from view from the passing traffic. “Most of the biodynamic preparations are done on-site, such as ‘500’, though we don’t make the ‘501’. We have also been inter-planting fruit trees for the last six years, and in 2021, we practice using arch canes instead of pruning over 45 hectares of vineyard. We have also introduced cover crop – there never used to be any.”

I remember walking through the vineyard and nearly being run over by a herd of sheep. Are those still around?

“Yes, we have 150 sheep that we use to mow the cover crop. Plus, there are 25 cows and goats.”

I also recollect an early visit to the château where I noticed a few bottles of Palmer Blanc in their measly library of old vintages, perhaps the 1925. I told Duroux that they should reintroduce that; after all, it hasn’t harmed Château Margaux much. But Duroux had already begun that project. There are 1.5 hectares of white vine cultivated on pure clay. However, the most intriguing aspect is the grape varieties. For example, the 2020 Vin Blanc de Palmer that I tasted is a blend of Muscadelle (from a massal selection of 100-year-old vines located in Gaillac), Lozet and Sauvignon Gris that were both planted in 2005. It undergoes just a single pressing and though delicious when young, is designed to age, as a 2007 tasted with Duroux last year proved.

Their 19th-century blend also recreates the “Hermitagé” wines of that era. Duroux was inspired by an 1869 Palmer that seemed to be bolstered by a bit of the Rhône’s finest. Syrah usually comprises around 15% of the blend and comes from two or three French regions outside of Bordeaux that can vary between vintages, the fruit blended at the end of the vinification. “The Historical blend is not Palmer plus Syrah,” Duroux emphasizes as we taste a couple of vintages. “It is a completely different blend. The production is around 5,000 bottles, but we don’t make it every year.”

The Harvest and Vinification

“We do a first sorting in the vineyard,” Duroux told me. “Then there is a second sorting on a vibrating table, a third by hand, then one by a winery machine and finally optical sorting. In 2018, for example, we had to be very strict.”

Touring the vat room, I ask Duroux to give me the lowdown. “We use 85-hectoliter vats that are divided into two. We have an experimental vat room where, for example, we can trial using no sulfur and learn to make the pied de cuve [whereby some of the fruit is picked and fermented, then added to the vats in the main harvest to kickstart the alcoholic fermentation, thereby obviating the need for commercial yeasts]. Pied de cuve has been used since the 2017 vintage. We have our own laboratory for analyzing the must with our own gas chromatography machine. The laboratory has become more important in recent years.”

“I use a lower temperature in the beginning, around 8° Celsius, to manage any brettanomyces. Since 2014, we have not used sulphur before fermentation. If we can, we postpone the first SO2 addition a few months after malolactic fermentation. We try to keep free SO2 below 20mg/L during the aging process. When everything goes well (as in 2020), our total SO2 is below 70mg/L at bottling.”

Château Palmer's foudres.

“We adapt the maturation process. The first aging is in barrel when the wine needs oxygen, and then from July, we continue the aging in thirty 30-hectoliter Stockinger and Seguin-Moreau foudres to the next July. Two were introduced in the 2017 vintage, and then we added more. For the 2021 vintage, around 40% of the crop was aged in foudres, but it will never be 100% as they cannot be left empty. The oak barrels are sourced from Seguin-Moreau, Taransaud, Boutte, Demptos, Nadalie, Stockinger and Radoux. It’s never 100% new oak, but between 50% and 65%. I have tried concrete eggs, but I find that after four or five months, it suffocates the wine.”

Palmer introduced Alter Ego with the 1998 vintage. In replacing La Réserve de Géneral, it was received as a rebranding of the Second Wine, but Duroux emphasizes that it is more an alternative interpretation of their terroir. “With time, Alter Ego has become a political selection in the vineyard more than a batch selection in the cellar,” he tells me. “We use mainly fruit from classic light gravel soils, which means that Alter Ego is a very classic Margaux wine by Château Palmer.” 

This article is built around two tastings. The first was held in London at 67 Pall Mall, and the follow-up was a vertical that spanned decades at the château in March 2022. It was a pleasure to see the bottles shared with the full team following our tasting. These are augmented with some odd bottles that cropped up hither and thither. I also recovered some ancient notes that I thought were lost, including a 1931 Palmer, which is annoying because, in my Complete Bordeaux book, I wrote that I had never tasted a red from this vintage. Then again, it was so wretched that I poured it straight down the sink.  

The Wines

This is an occasion where the tasting notes speak for themselves. Certainly, one of the highlights in recent years is the spellbinding 2016 that will doubtless jostle with the 2018 for supremacy in coming years, the latter wilder and more decadent. The 2016 is all grace and composure, a pixelated wine that delivers intensity and elegance in equal measure. Even the 2013 Palmer, from one of the most disparaged seasons in recent years, demonstrates how the estate can pull out all the stops to create a wine that ranks amongst the best on the Left Bank. “The 2013 was picked ten days earlier than we wanted to because of the rot,” Duroux remembers. “We picked ten hectares of Merlot in a day…on a Sunday…which saved us.” Like many estates, contrasting the first decade of the 21st century with the second, one easily sees the improvements in tannins management so that the 2005 Palmer is impressive yet more robust, perhaps just missing the precision of recent vintages on the finish. Neither the 2002 nor 2004 Palmer really deliver the goods, to be frank, Duroux remarking that the former suffered coulure in the vineyard and, as a result, cropped at just 25hL/ha, enhancing its density. That is probably why I prefer it to the latter.

The previous decade has always been less consistent, though the winemaking team benefitted from the stainless-steel vats installed for the 1995 vintage that Duroux suggests might have been excessively extracted. The 1993 Palmer is the “dark horse.” A magnum served blind several years ago rendered a few participants speechless – it was that good. This 1993 from bottle was a pertinent reminder that Palmer has an unerring ability to pull a rabbit from a hat in more challenging vintages. The 1991 Palmer is also proof of that and represents one of the stand-out Left Bank wines in this frost-affected season. “It has a green perfume,” Duroux observes, “but it is not vegetal.” The 1990 Palmer is a beautiful wine. This bottle, opened at 67 Pall Mall, is plump, mellow and complex, Rubenesque, at its peak now. The 1985 Palmer has a modest reputation, and I have not encountered it often. So, it was a pleasant surprise that this showed better than expected, almost Saint-Émilion-like towards the finish.

Of course, little needs to be said about the 1983 Palmer, apart from the fact that it is sensational and shows no signs of relinquishing its halo. Three bottles tasted in the last 12 months confirm this is a thoroughbred wine, the one direct from the château’s cellar flirting with perfection, a multi-faceted elixir that becomes more and more complex with aeration. It has always overshadowed the 1982 Palmer that was one of the few to meet a tepid reception from Robert Parker out of barrel. “The yield was crazy, and the cellar was too small,” Duroux mentions. Comparing the two, the 1983 Palmer is in a different league, even if one factors in the possibility of a little TCA hobbling the 1982. Like the 1993, the hidden gem in this decade is the lovely 1981 Palmer. Again, the aforementioned critic gave it a drubbing at the time, yet several bottles have been divine, beautifully balanced with a sapid, cedar-infused finish that’s just pure joy.

The Seventies is a more difficult period for Palmer, although the 1971 Palmer has always been one of few genuinely successful wines in a year where you have to go Right Bank to drink well. This is the fourth bottle tasted; after half a century, it still has so much to offer. I drank a lot of the 1970 Palmer back in the day when prices were reasonable. This was not the best bottle I have tasted, and though it continues to drink well, it has become a little austere and lacks a bit of panache. Larger formats could be interesting.

The Sixties is full of ups and downs. Such is the mythical reputation of the 1961 Palmer that it overshadows the wondrous 1966. Duroux pulled out a 1967 Palmer that I had not tasted before, and it was not too shabby with its mature Burgundy-like bouquet and brown spices sprinkled over the palate. Not complex, and provenance certainly played its part, but bottles could be worth tracking down. For completeness, I have included more ancient bottles ranging from the sublime, step forward the 1955 Palmer, to others thrown down the sink, such as the 1931 Palmer, born in a vintage where nobody made wine worth drinking. The oldest bottle of Palmer that I drank serendipitously materialized after I just filed this article. The 1924 Palmer comes from an overlooked Twenties vintage that can startle on occasion. Though this bottle had been reconditioned in the Eighties, its perfume immediately indicated a wine of sound condition. Fragrant on the nose, it evoked images of antique bureau and pressed flowers. The palate is fine-boned, never power but holding on to its sense of effortlessness. I felt pangs of guilt that we martyred the bottle a year before its century birthday. As an aside, Michael Broadbent penned a wonderful note on this wine in his inimitable style, and you can either look it up, or I refer you to “my” description of the lady on the train in my opening paragraph.

Final Thoughts

The two verticals reaffirm Palmer as a top-tier Grand Cru Classé. Palmer is one of only two or three châteaux that can genuinely outflank the First Growths in a favorable wind, such as in 1961 and 1983, potentially even the audacious 2018. Having spent time at both Palmer and Durfort-Vivens recently, they have some things in common, not least their adoption of biodynamics and utilizing alternative vessels during élevage, clay jars for Durfort-Vivens and foudres at Palmer. Both demonstrate forward-thinking approaches driven by visionary estate managers, though Palmer’s status and visibility amongst cognoscenti are much higher. Putting techniques aside, Palmer is a habitually delicious wine, banal as that reads. Its Merlot component imparts both the structure sourced from its gravel soils and sensuality and opulence that intertwine to magical effect. In terms of grape varieties, I sometimes align Palmer to Pessac-Léognan, that feeling of extracting the best from the Left Bank and the best from the Right to create something more than a sum of its parts.

What of the future? Anyone driving past in recent months would have noticed the bulldozers and cranes. On one visit, I parked the car for an hour-long tasting, and upon returning, the outbuilding opposite had been reduced to rubble. “The reconstruction program concerns the village itself,” Duroux explains. “We are trying to restore the village as it was before, reorganizing things to let our guests experience Palmer in a different way. We will have a ‘vignerons’ restaurant for internal use, but also for a few guests from outside. We plan to have a private table in the château so that we can use all that we are producing on the farm.”

You have to trust me that the numbers preceding “4” were “1”, “9” and “2”.

Looking back to that fateful meeting in the stagecoach heading to Paris, Charles Palmer’s impetuous nature serendipitously led him to one of the Médoc’s truly great estates. Perhaps de Gascq’s inveigling that Palmer was second only to Lafite was no exaggeration? Palmer obviously realized that in his lifetime and invested more money than he could afford, ultimately paying the price. One would like to think that he would take solace in the fact that he lent his name to a prestigious estate that, two centuries later, fulfills his ambitions.

© 2023, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.

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