Château Palmer, Margaux
For more than 17 years, she has tied, trained, staked and destemmed her way through the vineyards… Christine Valino is the living memory of a savoir-faire unique to the estate.
What brought you to Château Palmer?
I was born in Lyon, to immigrant parents. When I was still very young, my father and mother moved to the Bordeaux region, looking for vineyard work. As for myself, I left school once I turned 16. I was eager to begin a professional life. I had a string of jobs in various fields – restaurants, retail, retirement homes – until I finally applied for work here. That was in 2000. They were short a vineyard worker. I filled the position on a temporary basis for six months. After that, they offered to hire me on full time. I learned the profession on the job, without any special training, by simply watching how the others worked.
What exactly does your job entail?
Year round, rain or shine, from 8:15 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 17:00, I work in the vineyard. I manage the wires, replace broken stakes, thin out leaves, remove excess shoots, tie up vines for better sun exposure, prune … It’s physical work of course, and can be difficult depending on the weather, but I try to carry out my tasks intelligently, with an eye towards self-preservation. For that, I’ve had to experiment quite a bit. Under the old piecework system, I was responsible for 70,000 vines, pruning excluded. So I had time to test different techniques, and to identify which were most efficient. The harvest is yet another story. I chose to be at the sorting table. I get to see the berries arrive. The fruit of a year’s work. Those are real moments of joy, relief and pride. Like in 2015: the grapes were magnificent…
How has the estate evolved over time?
I remember Château Palmer without grass in the vineyards. “Clean”, as they say. It was less pleasant to look at, though it was easier to walk through. The transition to biodynamic viticulture especially helped us to work under better conditions. We no longer have any contact with harmful products. Of course, the system is not without problems. The mildew outbreak last year, and the frost this year, were difficult challenges to our approach. It was painful. But I remain confidant. I know we are on the right track.
“I learned the profession on the job, without any special training, by simply watching how the others worked.”
Christine Valino, Vigneronne, Château Palmer
And what of the wine?
To be honest, I don’t drink wine. Except Palmer… that which the owners give us every year. I know how much pleasure it always brings my loved ones. Even if they try to refuse. “You should keep it,” they tell me. Out of the question! Not long ago, I uncorked a Château Palmer 2008 and 2010 with them, over a good meal. They were well appreciated…