2019 Bordeaux EP | A Case for Alter Ego

by Jack Chapman

Chateau Palmer Barrel room

There have been a fair number of ‘ifs’ about the 2019 Bordeaux En Primeur. The first and perhaps biggest was the ‘if it would happen’. With most of the world in various states of lockdown, Primeur week cancelled and critics unable to taste, the situation in April looked pretty bleak. Not to mention the usual ‘if it’s even a good vintage’ question mark- after all, everyone had either heard about or experienced the early season heat spikes on the continent.

However, by far the most exhilarating ‘if’ statement of them all would have to be ‘if you told me two weeks ago that not only would En Primeur be under way, but we would see the release of outstanding wines from both Pontet-Canet and Château Palmer at 30% under the 2018 price’ then you would invariably have been laughed out of the room, or at very least given your last glass.

But here we are! At the start of a very promising campaign in which the Bordelais seem to be giving us an almost penitential discount in the face of the global situation. It is somewhat overdue, but very welcome nonetheless.

With Château Palmer and Pontet-Canet sitting more toward the serious end of the spectrum, I wanted to draw your attention to a wine which holds a very special place in my own wine drinking history…

Alter Ego de Palmer

Not quite the second wine, but the ‘Alter Ego’ of the grand vin, at just £270 per 6 IB and with an outstanding 94 point score from Jane Anson(Decanter), Palmer’s literal ‘other personality’ represents a fantastic way to access in the estate. Made primarily from a separate 8 hectare vineyard, the blend is always high in merlot which means despite its age-ability, Alter Ego can be drunk young with a great deal of pleasure.

Alter Ego de Palmer holds a fairly special place for me as, very near the start of my wine career, I bought a bottle of the 2008 in a French supermarket for about 30 euros- at the time perhaps more than I had ever spent on one bottle of wine. It earned me a lot of chastisement from my girlfriend, who didn’t quite understand how it could cost that much, and the glassware on the rented cottage was far from up to the task. I even recall trying to strain it into a makeshift decanter and spilling a few precious drops on the worktop.

Immediately I understood what all the fuss was about with Bordeaux.

A year later, with that girlfriend firmly out of the picture, I was still so utterly engrossed with the idea of finding more Alter Ego that it prompted myself and three friends to drive the length of France and tour Bordeaux. Sadly, it had jumped up to about 50 euros a bottle by then, and obviously some of the berating for my earlier expenditure had sunk in, but it did prompt the discovery of many other superb wines from the region, and an abiding obsession with Alter Ego de Palmer which lasts till this day.

My advice- if you’re going to try one new wine this year, try Alter Ego. Also, don’t make the mistake of waiting- buy En Primeur before this gets even more expensive! At very least, you’ll save yourself a long drive to Bordeaux…

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