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Between The Rows

BEHIND THE SCENES

At Château Palmer, as in the theatre, the real story often lies in what happens backstage.

Behind the Scenes

The Alchemy of Wine

In the winery, the apple makes milk… “The transformation of ordinary reality into a miraculous, poetic fiction.” Such is the definition of alchemy in literature.

In the winery, the apple makes milk…
“The transformation of ordinary reality into a miraculous, poetic fiction.” Such is the definition of alchemy in literature. And what if it applied to viticulture? In the Château Palmer winery, after harvest, sorting and pressing is done, the juice, skins and pips begin their fermentations. Plural, because for the fruit of the vine, the fermentation process is twofold: first it’s alcoholic fermentation, when the natural sugars become alcohol; then comes malolactic fermentation, when the malic acid is converted into lactic acid. This essentially deacidifies the wine, and it’s all completely natural, or nearly so… A human hand simply encourages the process, by placing the barrels in a stable atmosphere at 21°C and plugging them with special glass stoppers which allow the gas produced to escape. And thus the malum is transformed into lactis – the “apple” becomes “milk”. A lovely bit of wordplay, which describes a small miracle indeed.

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Behind the Scenes

Choukry’s plot

Behind the name of this plot stands a pretty story… Starting point: 1979. Abdeslem Choukry starts working at Château Palmer. The winegrower of Moroccan origin is paid...

Behind the name of this plot stands a pretty story… Starting point: 1979. Abdeslem Choukry starts working at Château Palmer. The winegrower of Moroccan origin is paid under the task-work system. He trims the vines, picks the grapes during harvest and fills-up his wooden buckets on the horse-drawn cart. Finally, he crushes the berries with his feet… Those were different times ! The worker recalls that « life was full of joy ». Retired since 2007, he lives next to the property’s sheepfold. There is no doubt that he still looks after the plot of Petit Verdot, named after him by Thomas Duroux upon his arrival. Beyond the wordplay and the kind gesture, this is a charming way of acknowledging Mr Choukry. Choukran.

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Choukry Château Palmer
Behind the Scenes

Peculiar Pebbles

Behind a bare and stony façade, riches abound… Pebbles underfoot. Millions of them. Black, coarse and brittle; white and round; small and marbled… glorious gravel.

Behind a bare and stony façade, riches abound…
Pebbles underfoot. Millions of them. Black, coarse and brittle; white and round; small and marbled… glorious gravel. The foundation of a remarkable soil known as les graves. For their age alone they inspire wonder – between 1.2 and 1.7 million years old. Over two glacial periods, the Garonne river deposited them here as vast terraces, atop the rises of the Margaux appellation, across the Brauzes Plateau. Their qualities have fascinated us ever since. The soils they create remain poor in organic matter, thus limiting a grapevine’s growth and preventing overdevelopment of shoots and leaves. Deposited in layers, they provide perfect drainage, while retaining and then releasing heat – decidedly propitious conditions for the production of grapes. Precious stones, indeed.
 

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Behind the Scenes

Hear Palmer

If an estate can be tasted, it can also be heard. Since 2010, the primeurs have resonated through the winery.

If an estate can be tasted, it can also be heard.
Since 2010, the primeurs have resonated through the winery. For every spring, jazz offers its vision of the latest vintage of Château Palmer and Alter Ego – live in concert.
Behind this accord are decidedly similar styles of writing one’s history. Both Château Palmer and jazz are composed with liberal improvisation and interpretation, at once within an historical context and an unpredictable present. It’s a search for a singular balance... which they attain, and always in their own way. They are characterised, the one and the other, by phrasings and harmonies both complex and spontaneous, reasoned and moving, universal and mysterious. And Hear Palmer unites them.

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Behind the Scenes

Harvest Diaries

To each château its library. That of Palmer boasts gilded tomes aplenty, but it also holds a collection of simple school notebooks, dating back to 1938…

To each château its library. That of Palmer boasts gilded tomes aplenty, but it also holds a collection of simple school notebooks, dating back to 1938…
Small, spiral-bound, graph-ruled notebooks… entire rows of them. The shelves are lined with harvest diaries. Yet school has been out for years. The harvest diary – the object like the expression – is no more. Today, the spreadsheet is king, used henceforth to archive the data from every harvest. On screen, the facts and figures scroll by – parcel, grape variety, number of mini-vats, must weight, grape temperature and acidity. With Excel, only the data remains. But not on the page. Ink stains and scratched-out mistakes; the florid strokes of writing styles from other eras; accidents and customs from the past punctuate these pages of heritage. Indeed, at an estate devoted to its terroir, sometimes there’s a sense of place to be savoured not only in the wines, but in the writing.
 

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