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2021, Convergent Forces - part 2
Men & women make up the crucial patchwork of the harvest, joining forces to bring as many grapes to the vat room.

      During this period, the estate's staff jumps from 70 to 230 workers, bunches of men and women who make up the crucial patchwork of the harvest, joining forces to bring as many grapes as possible to the vat room. This is where all roads lead, where everything plays out under the high ceilings of the building next to the cellar. The beating heart of the hive, where the excellence of a vintage is concocted with second-by-second meticulous attention. A dozen experienced winemakers receive the pallets. They first sort the grapes by hand before turning to the indispensable arsenal of machinery, including destemmers, vibrating tables and optical sorters, which use high-speed cameras to detect and eject any unripe or bruised grapes. Only the highest-quality fruit is transported into the small, mobile vats — at a speed of 499 feet per minute — then into the main vat where four weeks of fermentation await.

Hands whirl and brains buzz around the machines. The bunches, individual berries and waste products are weighed, estimations are corrected, data is reassessed. "This is the control tower," says a smiling Fabien, who monitors the traceability of each delivery on his computer screen. The harvest is known for its physical demands, but also implies endless calculations, from the flurry of pallets and the number of hectolitres per hectare to the density of each vat and the pin-point temperatures. Every single step is perpetually adapted and adjusted.

This crucial, infinitesimal task continues on the floor above with the technical tasting process. Eleven bottles containing a sample from each vat are lined up on a table, ready to be swilled, inhaled and carefully compared. Thomas and Sabrina check that each fermentation is coming to fruition. Even at this stage they comment on the future vintage, plot by plot, assisted by cellar master Olivier and Hervé, a trained chemist, who prepares the "starter" with natural yeasts studied under the microscope in the laboratory. 

In the cellars, trainees accompanied by the teams "pump over" the must onto the top of the vat, before letting it flow back down through the grapes and the pomace, absorbing, darkening, and developing its structure. This operation is repeated three times a day. "This is when the skeleton of the wine is formed," says Hervé. "The foundations and key flavours of the vintage take shape." During the fermentation, "we taste each of the vats every day — 56 in total," says Olivier. A cutting-edge science that draws on the nose and the palate, requiring memory and intuition. A decisive instant in which four people sketch the soul of the wine by imagining potential combinations and anticipating future blends.

Another more light-hearted and restorative tasting session then begins. As a reward for twelve months of hard work, a shared lunch is held under a marquee a stone's throw from the cellar. A traditional truce, a leisurely break attended by winemakers, cellar workers, and all those who form the lifeblood of the estate. Even the chickens are there, waiting for a kindly hand to throw them the last pieces of bread left on the checked table cloth.

The Château Palmer grape harvest gives the impression of a gentle sprint, a controlled frenzy.

      The Château Palmer grape harvest gives the impression of a gentle sprint, a controlled frenzy. Each person knows their role by their heart, making timely adjustments and reacting calmly in the face of unpredictable weather. And indeed, the expected — or rather dreaded — late-September rains lived up to the term "precipitation" in every sense of the word. These downpours kicked off the spectacle: the harvest of the 2021 vintage began three days early, on Friday, September 24, and ended in the second week of October after a marathon that proved to be more relaxed than expected. The solemn, heart-warming culmination of an intense year and a gloomy summer. 

      "It's a happy time for us," says Driss, a winemaker and groundskeeper on the estate. The rest of the year, we work in separate teams. The harvest is when we all come together to take part in the grand finale." Some 15 winemakers are working around him: the "cutters," red secateurs in hand, remove plump bunches of Merlot from the vines, alternating with the "porters" who, with crates harnessed to their backs, march back and forth between the vine stock and the truck. Château Palmer's permanent staff get to know the seasonal workers, including Carmen, who has travelled from the town of Gradignan with her son, or joke around with the apprentices, such as Isabella, accompanied by her dogs. Here, separating the grapes from each plot is as important as uniting those who harvest them. Fruit is divided; people are mixed together.

      A few feet away, a group task is being completed by 16 refugees, including Abdil Basir, a former taxi driver from Afghanistan who arrived in France in 2019, and Abdul, originally from Sudan. "Some of them are eager to keep working on the vines after the harvest," says Stéphanie, wearing a blue Château Palmer "Vintage 2021" T-shirt. She and Émilie are also supervising a group from the local youth career centre, comprised of young adults from 16 to 25. For many of them, this is their first professional experience. "They get off the coach on the first day as if they were arriving at a holiday camp," say the two winemakers. "Then they discover the connection with nature and the rigor of our work. Guiding them takes a lot of energy and you have to really make yourself heard, but it's a fulfilling experience. We are team leaders, canteen staff and social workers all at once!"

      A little further on, in the midst of the vines, three other figures are choreographing this autumnal dance: Thomas Duroux, director of Château Palmer, Sabrina Pernet, technical director, and Oriane Heuillet, head of research and development. Every day, these pillars of the estate scour the vineyard, smelling and tasting the grapes, comparing and deciding which plots to harvest first. Number 38, for example, can wait until Saturday, while number 70's clusters of Petit Verdot must be picked as soon as possible - and "gently," insists Sabrina, relaying instructions over the phone.

      After a challenging year marred by a lack of sunshine, spring frosts, and persistent mildew, the trio seems to be reassured by their mobile tasting-session. "The tannins in this plot are fantastic," says Thomas Duroux, who is predicting "wines that might just surprise us."

Château Palmer 2011 - A preciously kept secret
Château Palmer extends an invitation to all great wine lovers for 2011’s market re-entry, this Thursday September 23rd.

Château Palmer extends an invitation to all great wine lovers for 2011’s market re-entry, this Thursday September 23rd. After ten years of silent evolution in the property’s cellars, Château Palmer 2011 is ready to arise from its reserve: a rare, singular and powerful vintage, most surely magnified over time.

A rare vintage

Half a century after the legendary 1961 vintage, Château Palmer 2011 distinguishes itself with its very low yields: twenty hectolitres per hectare, a historic low in its time. Blame goes to a hostile month of June, inflicting on the vineyard, both hail and heatwaves, one after another. The result? A concentration as beautiful as it is unexpected, full of great potential right from the start.

A unique vintage

Truly atypical for the left bank, Château Palmer 2011 breaks free from the vintage’s solar and precocious branding to entrench itself in its terroir, matching frank acidity with extremely precise tannins. Forty years after the misunderstood 1971, an unexpected miracle of grace and balance, it has joined the shortlist of unique wines that arise from the ordinary despite complicated conditions.

A powerful vintage

An aesthetic and powerful wine, perfect for keeping, Château Palmer 2011 is currently emerging from its reserve phase, ready to reveal its prime characteristics. Its distinctive velvetiness, draped in a fleshy and generous structure, deploys notes of fresh spices and precious wood that resonate with force. From the height of this first ten year peak, this promising 2011 has not finished its evolution ...

"An atypical great wine on the Bordeaux scale, Château Palmer 2011 breaks free from the vintage’s brand to entrench itself in its terroir. Undeniably, a prominent wine in the Palmer’s history... "

Thomas Duroux, Director of Château Palmer

Since 2010, Château Palmer has preciously kept a large part of its production in the property’s historic cellar. If the Primeurs week, which traditionally takes place in Bordeaux in the spring, remains the perfect opportunity to present young, delicate wines waiting to be kept, Palmer thus inaugurates in 2020 a new concept: the second and last market re-entry, after ten years of meticulous vigilance at the château, a vintage ready to be tasted.

2020, A Delightful Paradox
Sunny Merlot, fine and powerful Cabernet, and a terroir of brilliant clarity.

April 2021 - In the wake of an extraordinary 2018 and a 2019 of profound elegance, the 2020 vintage of Château Palmer, with its class and sensuality, rounds off a truly exceptional trilogy.

Sun-kissed and harmonious wines

At the end of February, the onset of the vines’ budburst almost two weeks ahead of schedule signalled the launch of what would be a very early vintage. March brought heavy rainfall, which made working the soil considerably more difficult, only to be followed by a damp spring with mild temperatures, conditions all too conducive to the spread of mildew. Throughout April and May, the vineyard would require superlative care to keep us on course for a healthy harvest. In mid-May, a return to warm, dry weather would set the stage for an ideal flowering period, raising hopes of a lovely vintage indeed.

In June, the summer weather arrived and settled in to stay. By the end of July, the berries had begun their colour change under a bright and constant sun, allowing for an early synthesis of polyphenols. Although the heat waves of August subjected the vines to a good deal of hydric stress, intense thunderstorms brought a welcome breath of fresh air: the Merlot grapes gorged themselves while the Cabernet, which weren’t as far along in their cycle, retained their small size. The return to dry weather at the end of August fostered the concentration of the tannins and marked a promising conclusion to the ripening process.
The harvest began on the 15th of September, with the Merlot picked in the cool of dawn and the Cabernet gathered between the drops of thundershowers. The harvest ended two weeks later on the 29th of September. In the vat room, the fermentations proceeded smoothly and the blending was carried out over two sessions in mid-November, for the most part during the run-off. Marked by the year’s eminently favourable climate, the 2020 vintage of Château Palmer is on par with 2018 in terms of structure, boasting sunny Merlot, fine and powerful Cabernet, and a terroir of brilliant clarity.
A locked-down spring, stubborn mildew, a dry and scorching summer, early harvests ...

December - A locked-down spring, stubborn mildew, a dry and scorching summer, early harvests ... Spectacular in more than one way, 2020 has finally entered into the winter season, and promises, as a reward for the fantastic teamwork and the constant attention given, a powerful vintage, with a combination of the Merlot’s beautiful exuberance and the Cabernet’s profound depth.

This year has not finished surprising us, treating the multiplying restrictions as challenges to be defied: following on from the suspended period of lockdown, health care precautions and the threat of the virus like that of spring blight, along came the harvest striking deliverance hour and giving this early yield a truly unique flavour.

After a rain free summer, it was necessary, as of September 10th and under a dry, almost untenable heat, to collect, first and foremost, the Merlot whose berries immediately revealed a remarkably aromatic freshness, a beautiful acidity and a rare potency. The Cabernet grapes distinguished themselves through their depth and finesse. This year, the terroir’s declaration is crystal clear.

“Alter Ego’s and Château Palmer’s styles were so clearly shaped from the start that blending has never happened so quickly,” explains Thomas Duroux, Managing Director of Château Palmer.

The adventure has paid off, the earth knows how to reward the efforts made. Both the great wine and its mirror wine are now safely tucked away, in the cellar, building on their exuberance and their magnificent promises.


« GENIUS LOCI » by François Méchain
Château Palmer will host Genius Loci, an exhibition of emblematic works of art by the French moving sculptor – photographer,

October 2020 - Château Palmer will host Genius Loci, an emblematic exhibition in tribute to the French plastic artist-photographer, François Méchain... In each of the places he worked in over forty-five years - his most intimate territories, his region, numerous foreign countries - this Charente native found the material necessary to imagine complex and unique pieces that he immortalized through his lens. Imbued with strong and committed messages, his sensitive way of approaching our world and the brilliance of its elements echoes the values of Château Palmer.

Sculptor-photographer, but also "journalist, geographer, biologist, historian, amateur sociologist" in his own words, François Méchain was from the start of his career a plastic artist in love with nature and travel, keen to get his viewers to reflect on what they are given to observe. Between 1978 and 1982, he produced Equivalences, a series of poetic and intimate photographs that questioned the powers of image, between illusion and reality. From 1988 to 1989, the nomadic artist modeled the nature surrounding him through enigmatic vegetal sculptures with geometric purity, theatricalized in natural landscapes.

Photographed, these Sculptures-Fictions still confuse reality and its representation. Whilst continuously traveling across vast and distant lands, he created large In-Situ installations, whose photographic prints constitute the ultimate culmination of a process highlighting both environmental concerns and philosophical or political reflections, depending on the context.

Over his forty-five years of creativity, François Méchain never ceased to widen the circle of his interests and his field of action. Firstly, the intimate sphere with Equivalences as its focus, then the spatial circle of Sculptures-Fictions with the landscapes working alongside the studio. Finally, the outer part of the circle through his homes and his overseas orders (Finland, Italy, Canada, Brazil, USA ...), in the context of In-Situ

The exhibition  « Genius Loci » by François Méchain may be seen during estate visits to Château Palmer, from 20th October 2020 to 15th January 2021. Length: 2 ½ hours - 70€ - Reservations by e-mail: chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com


*For everyone's safety, wearing a mask is compulsory within the property and the barrier gestures are applied. Depending on the evolution of the health crisis, the program may need to change.


Durban, Chaumont-sur-Loire, 2012 © François Méchain


A decade of inspiring dissent
10 years of pioneering practices, 10 years of kept promises and 10 years of revelations to come...

September 2020 - The future of Château Palmer has been penned out for generations. But the past decade, like the one that is just starting, proves that the lines sometimes move more easily than you might think ...

10 years of pioneering practices

In 2010, Château Palmer embarked on the path of holistic agriculture. The vineyard reinvented itself as a vast ecosystem whose essence, whose true nature, was to be autonomous and well balanced. The vines’ defenses were stimulated, the living energies were channeled. Since then, the grass has grown, flowers and plants with healing properties have blossomed. Biodiversity appeared, agrochemicals disappeared. The wine gained in precision, nobility and brilliance. Palmer was fully converted to biodynamics by 2014.

10 years of kept promises

In 2010, in continuation of the vintages that made it such a legend (1961, 1983, 2005 ...), Palmer opened the decade with a heavenly wine, characterised by its complexity, depth, and bewitching effect on the palate. A wine full of promises, chiseled for ageing, and whose velvet touch resonated over time. More vintages followed on that alternated the unexpected and the sublime, the unclassifiable and the historic, freshness and harmony, in turn validating the new agricultural route: putting a place into a glass.

10 years of revelations to come

In 2010, Château Palmer chose to keep a large part of its bottled production in the property’s historic cellar. While the Primeurs Week, which traditionally takes place in Bordeaux in April, remains the opportunity to present great wines in their prime, in 2020, Palmer inaugurates a new key moment: the second and last sale of a wine that has reached the age of reason, after ten years of meticulous ageing at the Château, now ready to reveal the spectrum of its aromatic nuances.

On Thursday 24th September 2020, it is therefore with an already legendary wine, part of a great vintage for Bordeaux, that this rendez-vous will be inaugurated: Château Palmer 2010.


Photography  ©Yann Rabanier


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