The En-Primeur Insider: Seventh Edition, with Alistair Cooper MW

The En-Primeur Insider: Seventh Edition, with Alistair Cooper MW


The largest of the communal appellations in The Médoc, Margaux is also the only one to boast 1855 classified estates at all rankings from first to fifth. Generalisations abound with regards style and regional typicity in Bordeaux, but there is certainly some truth to these stereotypes. Margaux is often touted as the most feminine, aromatic and perfumed of the top appellations on the Left Bank. There is certainly truth in this statement and the wines can be extremely seductive, thrilling and subtle. In a word, think ‘finesse.’

Being such a large appellation also means that there is more variation in both style and quality. This is also down in part to the varied soils and geology of this area. Of the six different gravel soils that are found throughout the Médoc, only Margaux possesses the full gamut. There is slightly less Cabernet Sauvignon planted here than in neighbouring appellations yet it still accounts for 53% of the plantings.

The most famous name in the appellation is of course Chateau Margaux, yet it’s undisputed title challenger is Chateau Palmer. Despite being officially ranked as a Third Growth, it is often considered at the same quality level as the First Growths by the world’s greatest critics. Interestingly Palmer has an equal percentage of Merlot as Cabernet Sauvignon – both at 47% of the estate’s plantings . They also have a considerable quantity of old vine Merlot that helps give the wines their famous velvety texture. Palmer also followed Biodynamic principles in the vineyard, championed by CEO Thomas Duroux who is tireless in his pursuit of excellence.

They have always been incredibly selective when making their wines, and this has benefitted their second wine - Alter Ego de Palmer, which normally accounts for around 50% of their annual production. I call it a Second wine, yet at Palmer they don’t. They call it a second label, as it is produced from the same terroirs, yet winemaking is adapted to produce a wine that drinks earlier than the Grand Vin. Alter Ego enjoyed it’s debut release in 1998 and has become one of the most sought after wines from Margaux ever since. In 2020 yields were down by 40%, yet still this release is extremely keenly priced considering.

- Alistair Cooper,
Master of Wine & Esteemed Critic

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