As Bordeaux 2017 saw an early harvest, it has now seen an early start to the En Primeur campaign, with a marquee release this morning, Chateau Palmer and its second wine, Alter Ego. Last year the first major release was Cos d’Estournel on the 24 April, Palmers release today is likely to spark the Bordelaise into action and is a sign of intent. In 2017, Palmer, as it perennially does, made a very fine wine indeed, having already been awarded 97-98 points by James Suckling, who describes it as, ‘Full-bodied, soft and round. Extremely long and last for minutes.’ The release price this morning is £2,350 per case of 12, or £1,175, which marks a 17.3% reduction on last year’s release price. Interestingly, in euro terms, the ex negociant price has reduced 20%, the differential caused by tightening margins last year. This places Palmer’s 2017 release price considerably below the 2016’s trading price and just below the trading price of the 2015, with a small price over points premium.
The 2017 is a very fine Palmer, which according to Suckling’s score places it just behind the grand vintages of 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2016, yet better than 2005, which it trades at a discount to. Palmer is not known for its price sensitivity marching to the beat of its own drum. As can be seen from the below, it has aggressively increased its release price from 2014 onwards, with the Estate quickly getting back to its release prices in 2009 and 2010; yet both trade at an increase to their release prices at £2,750. It is also apparent from the table below that Palmer does not trade at a discount to its release price. This is due to two drivers, firstly the brand of Palmer is incredibly strong worldwide, perceived as one of the finest wines in the world. The second is that while the Estate has been increasing its prices, it has been significantly dropping its allocation on release, more so than any other Estate. In 2017, they have done this again, marking a continuation of this strategy by decreasing a huge 20% on release. Chateau Palmer do release physical vintages throughout the year, however, their price is always higher than the en primeur price. In effect, they are controlling the market, by starving it of stock. As such, if you want Chateau Palmer 2017, this is the lowest price it will probably ever be. All in all, the reduction in price is a welcome one, for a Palmer not far of the heights of the 2015 and 2016. As such, it is probable that this will sell out on the Place de Bordeaux quickly.
If the 1855 classification of Bordeaux were to be carried out today, Chateau Palmer would be the highest ranked Second Growth, despite having been classified as a Third Growth the first time around. Palmer 2017 score of 97-98 matches Chateau Margaux, its neighbour in the village of Margaux: the Chateau’s stock has never been higher.
Alter Ego has also released this morning, the stunning second wine of Chateau Palmer. In 2017, Alter Ego saw some production decrease due to the frost, so allocations are considerably down, the release price is up by 5% on 2016. In 2017 it has been awarded 92-93 points from James Suckling, a wine he calls a ‘Serious second wine.’ Alter Ego 2017 is a very good example of their second wine. The price increase is a representation of their confidence that it will, as always, sell out En Primeur, believing the market can handle a small uptick. Alter Ego lovers won’t be deterred by a £30 increase per case of 12, the price today is £590 per case of 12 and £295 per case of six.
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Palmer’s truly global cachet extends to its famous second wine Alter Ego, which is viewed as chief among the second wines, of the superb seconds. Alter Ego is almost as renowned as the Grand Vin and is a pervasive favourite among claret drinkers. It is noteworthy that Alter Ego was only introduced in 1998, designed to be of Grand Vin quality, thus replacing La Reserve de General as the Estate’s second wine. Prior to 1998 Chateau Palmer made 20,000 cases, however, the introduction of Alter Ego reduced this to 12,000. The remaining production, around 8,000 cases then goes into Alter Ego. Alter Ego therefore is perennially fashioned from many of the vines that produced Palmer.
Today’s releases from Chateau Palmer proceed the Wine Advocate and Vinous Media releasing their reports, which we can expect by the end of April. However, the decrease in price of 20% is encouraging, although Palmer is always an outlier in terms of En Primeur trends.
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