2005 Château Palmer Alter Ego de Palmer Margaux 93
I recently opened a bottle of Chateau Palmer’s other wine, the Alter Ego—now nearly 17 years old, 15 in the bottle. 2005 produced powerful Bordeaux marked by skin tannins because of the deficiency of rain during the growing season. Ripeness is not all. Wine needs water as well! The top wines have been maturing slowly and still put up resistance when tasted at this time in their evolution. However, some of the Merlot-rich wines from the left bank can be enjoyed now and over the next 5-6 years. The 2005 Alter Ego proved to be one of those accessible 2005s.
The first vintage for the Alter Ego was 1998. An 8-hectare plot on the estate is the main source of the fruit for the Alter Ego. Typically, the wine is at least 50% Merlot. The estate uses less new oak with the Alter Ego than with the Gran Vin. Palmer itself can be deceptively subtle, elegant and refined at an early age yet backed by firm tannins which tell the taster that aging is essential for the full expression of the complex terroir to unfold. The Alter Ego is invariably a softer, fruitier wine than Palmer itself. But the core of ripe dark berries, smoky and sweet tobacco flavors is very much of a piece with the Palmer itself. Palmer never speaks in a loud voice. At its best it is one of the aromatic glories of all Bordeaux. I am pleased to report that the 2005 Alter Ego is now at peak drinking and made the three of us tasting the wine with superb veal chops in a mushroom/stock sauce very happy. The bouquet, reserved at first, was coaxed from the class (after 2 hours of decanting) through vigorous swirling. The dark fruits core was enveloped in a marvelous Margaux sweetness, backed up by soft tannins which nevertheless held their own. This seamless wine offered a sensuality which is special if not unique to the best wines from the village of Margaux. The finish was consistent with the front and mid-palate. Persistent yet gentle with a sense of calm self-satisfaction. I can’t think of a Bordeaux that has offered more dignified pleasure since the 1961 Ausone I tasted a year ago. Although the 2005 Alter Ego may lack the intensity and depth of the Palmer itself, it is a truly satisfying wine in every respect. Drinking window 2022-2027.
2017 Luigi Einaudi Barolo Terlo Vigna Costa Grimaldi 95
There are wines that just surprise you with how good they are. That’s exactly the case with the Luigi Einaudi 2017 Barolo Terlo Vigna Costa Grimaldi, one of the best Barolos I have tasted from that very difficult (too hot, too dry) 2017 vintage. You approach the wine fearing overripe aromas and flavours, jammy notes, and even gritty tannins, and none of that is true. Rather this is an absolutely beautiful example of Nebbiolo that is gorgeous in its translucency, beginning with the pale red colour, intense aromas of red rose, cinnamon, minerals, violet, and plenty of sour red cherry, with extremely pure, penetrating flavours that echo the aromas. Light on its feet yet very concentrated and characterized by a steely backbone, the finish lasts minutes. Made from the Costa Grimaldi vineyard planted back in 1977 in the Terlo MGA, facing southeast and planted at about 310 meters above sea level, the wine was fermented in both stainless steel and concrete tanks. This is an exceptionally impressive showing by Einaudi in 2017. Very, very well done. Drinking window: 2025-2038.