October 2019 — The score for the 2019 vintage is written, the harvest has ended and given way to vinifications. On the 8th of October, Théo Ceccaldi – who will unveil the new vintage with a jazz concert this spring – came to draw his first inspirations at Château Palmer. With Thomas Duroux as his guide, this day of harvesting and discovery at the estate allowed him to experience the birth of the vintage that he will be interpreting next March.
Afterwards, he shared with us his first impressions.
Listen to Théo Ceccaldi's harvest playlist:
Listen to the playlist
Palmer: You were among the artists invited for the 10th edition of Hear Palmer to accompany Émile Parisien during his concert at Le Rocher de Palmer. But you didn’t have a chance to visit the estate?
Théo Ceccaldi: No, I went directly to Rocher de Palmer for the concert. I’d only come over for the day because I was on tour at the time. So I never had the chance to discover Château Palmer. Here, what’s cool has been having this time to really be steeped in the history of this cuvée. My experience last year was more stressful… For me, this 2019 cuvée is a bit like a rebirth.
P: It sounds like you’re already looking forward to unveiling this 2019 vintage.
T.C.: Absolutely, I think it’s going to be joyous! This music we’ve been creating with my trio Django is like a kind of road we’re building, leading us places that are a bit mysterious, sometimes a bit dark, but always with the same excitement and joy of sharing. There’s something very positive about it, something that sparkles, and I think that fits quite well with all that’s happening here. So I think it’s going to be day that recounts a special story all its own!
P: You were eager to come experience the birth of the 2019 vintage at harvest time. Immersing yourself in a place and a history, is that essential for you when you’re preparing to improvise?
T.C.: Yes, to soak up the ambiance of a place, of a whole team… There is a real spirit shared by people here, a genuine pleasure and passion you feel among those who work for Palmer. And Thomas is a fountain of knowledge; he knows the region and the terroir so well. To discover that the quality of soil can change completely when you move just 1 or 2 metres, from gravel soils, to earthy soils, to much more clayey soils like those found along the river; to learn the differences that that result from this in the vines and the wines; to understand that it’s the oldest vines that create the finest wines; to recognise the differences between the grape varieties; to realise that in one cuvée there are several grape varieties blended together, and how there are different stages of fermentation… All of this is really inspiring.
P: In your eyes, is the link between jazz and wine an obvious one?
T.C.: I was talking with Thomas precisely about that. What I find interesting is how, here too, every year creating wine involves a lot of interpretation and improvisation. Music as I conceive it is nourished by many forms of music and many other influences. In the same way that to successfully blend a wine we must taste and taste and then add more or less on each terroir and each grape variety. It’s a mélange, a mixture, and with music it’s basically the same thing.
And then there’s a second level. There’s also the fact that you must constantly react to the vagaries of weather. One year, you will have a wine with a bit more backbone, and the next you’ll have a more solar wine… You have to know how to manage all this to create something with balance and harmony. You also have to be able to deal with the wider environment. To bring animal life into the equation, and to take into account the entire ecosystem, is to remain attuned to your entourage, which is so essential when performing jazz, this music of constant movement.
It’s all about movement! There is no set recipe, nothing is definitive. We’re constantly seeking ways to renew ourselves, other means of enrichment and improvement. And the music that I love is that which is adventurous, which emerges from a desire to explore new horizons. So all of that speaks to me, these are areas of correspondence, of obvious similarity.
P: How are you preparing for the revelation of this new vintage, and for your role as the chief curator of all the music for this year’s event?
T.C.: I’m so pleased about it! I like to think that it will be something of a made-to-measure evening, conceived especially for this vintage. I don’t yet know what form it will take… Either it will involve the composition of a work in honour of the vintage, or else the reinterpretation of an existing work, dedicated to this vintage. In any case, I love the idea of playing in the cellar, in this vast space surrounded by barrels. It’s going to be special!