Tue 02 Sep 2014

Two Great Margaux Properties – Palmer & Rauzan-Ségla: Tasting Notes


When preparing an article for Decanter magazine, I was able to compare a run of older vintages at two outstanding but very different Margaux châteaux.

palmer09Palmer, which now sells for very top-end super-second prices, was long a favourite of Wine Society members originally because of its outstanding record in the sixties and seventies when many of its neighbours were under-performing. The 1966 was one of the wines of the vintage and its 1970 outshone first-growth Margaux by a long way. One of the secrets of Palmer’s success in cooler years was the quality of its merlot planted on great terroir.

Rauzan-Ségla, whose place at the top of the second-growth in the 1855 classification is testimony to its potential suffered because its succession of owners lacked the means or the will to invest in vineyard and cellar. Since its purchase in 1994 by the Wertheimer family, who own Chanel, and their considerable investment in draining, restructuring the vineyard, rebuilding the cellar and far greater selection for the first wine Rauzan-Ségla has been steadily regaining its rightful place.

Here are some recent tasting notes for members lucky enough to have older vintages from either property.

All wines were decanted two hours in advance.

Château Palmer

Château Palmer

1995: A big wine with rich tannic structure without a trace of astringency, but currently not quite ‘married’. Seems to be in a dip. Good keeper till 2020 plus but leave now for a couple of years. 40% cabernet sauvignon, 51% merlot, 9% cabernet franc. Now–2025.

1996: Much more expressive than 1995 now with silky texture, lovely middle palate and freshness and vitality. Lots still to give but delicious now. The last year cabernet franc was used at Palmer. 55% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot, 4% cabernet franc, 1% petit verdot. Now–2020.

1998: Lovely ‘blackcurrant’ fragrance. Glorious rounded fruit. A great Médoc success in this vintage. Still in its first phase of maturity. 48% cabernet sauvignon, 52% merlot, 5% petit verdot. Now–2020.

2000: Pure salivating fruit. Firm long palate with minty touch. Wonderful to taste now, but probably a mistake to drink with food because almost too ‘big’ and will be finer in ten years. 53% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot. Now–2025.

2001: This vintage is completely ready with fragrant bouquet, creamy texture and peppery finish. Good rather than great. Would go well with chicken and mushrooms. 51% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot, 7% petit verdot. Now–2022.

2004: Has just ‘opened’ up in spring 2014. Serious dark fruit, succulent, with body and fruit and highly enjoyable now with a real touch of class too. First phase of maturity. Thomas Duroux arrived this year and changed the way the vineyards were worked and made stricter selection. 46% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot, 7% petit verdot. Now–2025.

2005: Absolutely gorgeous with an abundance of fragrant fruit, dense ripe, rich and naturally sweet. This will close up and should be kept. 2017–2030.

Palmer will be 100% organically cultivated from 2014, after beginning with a one hectare trial in 1998.

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Château Rauzan-Ségla

Since manager John Kolasa arrived in July 1994 with the Wertheimer purchase, huge long-term improvements have been made to vineyard, cellar and in precise vinification. Such changes take time to show but are now fully effective. Second wine Ségla is an excellent buy.

1995: A big wine which smells evolved but remains powerful and tannic-structured. Very good merlot this year. Will be better still from 2016. 60% cabernet sauvignon, 36% merlot, 4% cabernet franc. Now–2025.

1996: Delicious claret to drink now, in 2014, with vivacity and liveliness. Would go well with a juicy steak. 60% cabernet sauvignon, 40% merlot. Representing 42% of the crop. Now–2020.

1998: Ready to drink but best decanted two hours in advance as quite slow to ‘open’. Blueberry bouquet. Chicken and mushroom wine. 65% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot. Now–2018.

2000: Serious, rich, big-style claret, ‘like 1986 but better made’ with power and structure. The petit verdot helped fill the middle palate. 61% cabernet sauvignon, 36% merlot, 3% petit verdot. From 2019–2025.

2001: Tastes a shade pinched and at this stage the 2002 is better. Maybe better in two years; from 63.5% cabernet sauvignon, 33.5% merlot and 3% cabernet franc. 2016–2022.

2004: Enjoyable now with fresh, soft fruit and elegant Margaux finesse. 52.5% cabernet sauvignon, 42% merlot, 4% petit verdot, 1.5% cabernet franc. Now–2022.

2005: Great wine. Ripe and very classy but worth holding till 2020. 2017–2030.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

Categories : Bordeaux, France


  1. John Legg says:

    It is interesting to see in each case how the percentages vary between the years and also between the chateaux year on year. I note that for the 2001 Rauzan-Segla there is no mention of petit verdot.
    Kind regards,
    John Legg

  2. Barry Colam says:

    There isn’t the space for any petit verdot in the 2001 Rauzan-Segla given that the combined cabernet sauvignon and merlot percentages add up to 103%!

  3. Richard Miles says:

    What does “top-end super-second prices” mean to the layman?

    • Sebastian Payne MW says:

      It means it costs a lot. First growth 2005s go for between £3290 and £5575 a dozen, Ducru, a super-second goes for £2040. Palmer a third growth goes for £1724. Léoville-Las Cases goes for £1547. Other second growths, which are not super seconds like Gruaud are £446 and Léoville Barton £632.

  4. Richard Prince says:

    I bought a half case of 2003 Rauzan-Segla in a Society opening offer some years ago. We tried one bottle last Xmas and really enjoyed it. But it was an unusually hot summer and I have seen few comments on the 2003 vintage, so I wonder what are the prospects for the rest of my case. Should I drink up now, while it seems very good, or might there be any improvement? Any ideas?

  5. Richard Price MBE FRTS says:

    I find it depressing to read such reviews because my palate is not able to appreciate such levels of excellence. Nor is my pocket deep enough!!!

  6. Stephen Chapman says:

    Don’t be depressed! In my experience even lesser clarets of good years repay keeping to maturity. Find a level and a chateau or two that fit the budget and follow it through the years. That’s as much fun, for less.

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