Palmer & you



The life breath of Château Palmer.
Our latest inspirations and creations.
These respirations which drive the estate's beating heart, animating its life and that of its men and women.

The Little World of Château Palmer
Summertime. After a day in sun, the vignerons retire from the vine rows, leaving behind a vast expanse of nature at rest.

July 2017 - Summertime. After a day in sun, the vignerons retire from the vine rows, leaving behind a vast expanse of nature at rest. The vineyard has an air of calm about it. And yet, one need only take a moment to pause and observe to realize all is not as it seems. For hidden beneath this ocean of green chlorophyll is an entire little world, bustling with activity.
Pay close attention, and you might make a curious acquaintance or two here under the canopy. Perhaps you’ll come across a Carabus auratus, or a golden ground beetle – a sturdy little insect with a particular penchant for snails. You could happen upon a jumping spider, always on the lookout for grape leafhoppers (Empoasca vitis), of which they are formidable predators. On a leaf above, you might witness the birth of a ladybug, or find a harvestman (Opiliones) feasting on grape worms.
The vineyard shelters a surprising microcosm, whose fragile equilibrium requires care. And the farming practices at Château Palmer allow us to recognize just how rich and varied this vineyard biodiversity can truly be. Thanks to the presence of a multitude of plant life which we maintain and reinforce, for example by planting trees and hedges, every day we discover new insects in the plots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.
Preserving these natural balances within our ecosystem is at the heart of any environmentally respectful form of agriculture. Vineyard pests have natural predators which we call “auxiliaries” – insects that protect the vines thanks to their appetite for other troublesome insects. Alternatively, some types of insects influence the vines in indirect ways. Rather than contribute directly to the vines' protection, they enrich the overall ecosystem that nurtures the vineyard as a whole. Such is the case of wild bees, for example, which enable other plants to reproduce around the vines, thus maintaining habitat for a large number of insects. Here, the bee population in our vineyards has increased considerably in recent years.
Today, safeguarding this great wealth of life is essential to fostering the growth of sustainable, responsible agriculture. Though barely visible at first glance, this miniature world plays an outsized role in our environment, where every species is indispensable in their own way. One cannot exist without the other. But when we protect one, we protect them all.

Chemistry and Taste
The creation of a vintage involves innumerable steps, actions, and manoeuvres.
June 2017 - The creation of a vintage involves innumerable steps, actions, and manoeuvres. It’s a work of nature shaped by the hands of men and women, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Some of these operations are less well known, yet play roles every bit as crucial in the elaboration of a vintage. Notably those which take place in the laboratory, next to the winery. It’s a place like no other – white, immaculate, and dedicated to chemistry.
The chemistry of wine: polyphenols, density, extractability, alcohol potential, available nitrogen, malic acid, anthocyanins… it’s the science of all that unfolds from the moment a vintage first blooms to life in the vineyard. And it’s the science which comes sharply into focus in the days just before the harvest, when the berries have nearly fully ripened, and the harvest team is at the ready.
To determine the exact moment of perfect grape maturity, and thus launch the harvest, a series of berry analyses are conducted. Sylvain Fries, head of vine research and development, diligently scours the vineyards. He observes. Pauses. Tastes. Picks. He chooses 200 berries for each analysis, which he brings back to the laboratory. Tommaso Nicolato, who manages the laboratory, then performs two common maturity tests, one for technological maturity, and another for phenolic maturity.
The technological maturity test consists of measuring the sugar and acid levels in the grapes. As the grapes mature, malic acids levels diminish and the sugar concentration increases. At Château Palmer, the sugar concentration is closely monitored via densimetry (the measurement of density). Measuring the density of grape must allows us to estimate its potential alcohol, as it’s the sugar which will become alcohol during fermentation. The acid levels are measured with a simple pH test.
To test phenolic maturity, we will measure polyphenols, specifically anthocyanins and tannins. With this analysis, we monitor the accumulation of anthocyanins and the transformation of the tannins, which in maturing will develop a velvety character, veritable signature of the wines of Château Palmer. The most commonly used method was developed by one Professor Glories; it provides a clear picture of the quantity and quality of these polyphenols, and their extractability.
These analyses help reinforce the conclusions drawn in tasting the berries. They are additional tools in our arsenal as we gauge the precise moment to start the harvest. But the ultimate diagnosis is always that of our taste buds, for in the end, aromatic complexity cannot be measured, it can only be tasted. Come September, the time for tasting will be upon us once again, as we prepare to harvest the 2017 vintage!
A Brutal Frost
At the end of the month of April, just as the vines were beginning to adorn themselves in tender new leaves...

May 2017 – At the end of the month of April, just as the vines were beginning to adorn themselves in tender new leaves and to unveil their inflorescences, an episode of severe spring weather rocked the vineyards.
On April 26th and 27th, during the night, a wave of frost struck the entire Bordeaux wine region, causing extensive grapevine damage. Château Palmer was not spared, as our weather stations recorded temperatures as low as -3°C in certain vineyard locations, leading to the devastation of around 15 hectares of future harvest. An additional 10 hectares were partially impacted. The vine parcels furthest inland were those to suffer the frost. The others, situated near the Gironde, were protected thanks to their proximity to the river. In the Médoc, it’s often said, “the great terroirs overlook the water”. This year, it’s what saved them. The river played the role of a veritable thermal buffer, moderating the surrounding air temperature, thus protecting the harvest to come. A guardian.
Despite this brutal episode, which brings to mind the climatic conditions of the 1991 vintage, today the vines are rebounding, revived anew. Buds which hitherto had remained dormant have suddenly awoken, as if to take the place of those lost to frost. Slowly, the vineyards are regenerating. What they now need is time, and all the care that we can offer them.
Henceforth, we must walk the vine rows unrelentingly, remaining vigilant and attentive, while observing, reinforcing, encouraging… Using various natural remedies and field sprays, such as teas of valerian, yarrow or nettle, or tincture of arnica, we will work to soothe and heal the vines, to prepare them for the return to vegetation and to ensure the 2017 harvest, as small as it may be.
For despite the vicissitudes of weather, nature does bounce back. Like a rebirth. Yet another reminder of the importance of preserving this extraordinary ecosystem.

The season of beauty… Spring continues onward, leaving behind an en primeurs week...

April 2017 – The season of beauty… Spring continues onward, leaving behind an en primeurs week as intense as it was sunlit. The vineyards seem hushed now, as nature grows and the garden whispers. It’s a return to calm, and a chance to recall the birth of this lovely 2016 vintage.

Some vintages, it seems the entire cycle of life, from bud break to harvest, progresses at the tranquil tempo of exquisite clockwork. Yet it’s when the seasons go offbeat, and vignerons must dig deep to find their rhythm anew, that estates can truly reveal the essence of a grand cru – so it was in 2016.
A winter so mild the Merlot vines budded early, a spring so wet we feared a mildew calamity… 2016 kept our vineyard team on their toes. But they rose to the challenge like great jazz players, who upon hitting an unexpected note, can fold the troublesome tone into a jubilant new melody.
They improvised with gusto and grandeur, until a dry, mellow summer brought a sigh of relief. As autumn neared, the grapes began to don their habitual midnight blue.
Finally, on October 3 began the latest harvest in memory! Yields were modest, unsurprising given the year’s ordeals, but quality was simply stunning. Powerful, perfectly ripe tannins, extraordinary aromatics… sublimating such superior fruit is a cellar team’s raison d’être. Though still maturing, the nascent Palmer and Alter Ego 2016 already boast equilibriums wholly distinct from previous great vintages.
 Balancing elegance and depth, their alcohol content is quite typical, yet their tannic structure utterly exceptional. In the end, it’s Palmer’s unmistakeable velvet character which distinguishes these wines as our own, silken proof that in this unexpected vintage, Château Palmer found its rhythm after all.

Hear Palmer 2016 by Archie Shepp Quartet
Every year since 2010, the château comes alive on the eve of "en primeur" week to present the new vintage.

March 2017, en primeur countdown, Château Palmer.
Every year since 2010, the château comes alive on the eve of en primeur week to present the new vintage through music.
Jazz artists are invited to offer their interpretation of the new assemblages, over the course of a special, one-off concert in the barrel cellars.
Dubbed "Hear Palmer", the concert tradition was born of a meeting between jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson and Thomas Duroux. Together, the two visionaries imagined another way of discovering a new vintage, by both tasting and hearing it.
On March 31, 2017, it is Archie Shepp who will honour us with his interpretation of the 2016 vintage, during the 8th edition of Hear Palmer.
For the occasion, this jazz legend will be backed by three consummate artists: Carl-Henri Morisset, Darryl Hall and Steve McCraven.
Already, 2016 has the makings of a vintage apart. After the first months of maturation, the wines have distinguished themselves by their singular equilibrium, balancing depth and elegance, extraordinary structure and silken texture. A wealth of inspiration, then, for Archie Shepp and his quartet, renowned for the richness and audacity of his musical aesthetic, at once intensely personal, dense, rhythmic, and at times, ineffably tender. Hear Palmer 2016 promises to be an exceptional concert indeed.
The podcast of the concert will be available for listening at hear-palmer.com, starting April 1, 2017. It will also be broadcast on April 6, 2017, at 9 p.m. (GMT) on TSF Jazz radio in France: http://www.tsfjazz.com/player.html

Sebastião Salgado exhibits at Château Palmer
March 2017 – Château Palmer’s first new exhibition of 2017 begins this month.

March 2017 – Château Palmer’s first new exhibition of 2017 begins this month.

From 13th March to 25th August, 2017, one of the greatest photographers of his generation, the inspired and inspiring Sebastião Salgado, exhibits a selection of photographs from his work Genesis. A tribute to the planet’s last expanses of original nature, the Genesis series captures images from the four corners of the globe – a moving reminder of the beauty of the world around us, of this wild flora still untouched by humankind.

The selection made for Château Palmer, chosen by Sebastião Salgado and Lélia Wanick Salgado, curator of the exhibition, reveals our planetary garden. A garden like no other, without borders, composed of a thousand and one species of plants. Through his lens, Salgado allows us to rediscover the splendour of our planet. With his photographs, he calls on us to open our eyes to troubling truths. One of our world’s greatest treasures, indigenous nature, is disappearing. “We have left our planet behind,” says Salgado, “we must turn back to nature, and love it, contemplate it, respect it.”

Sebastião Salgado was born in 1944 in Aimorés, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. An economist by training, he launched his career as a photographer in 1973 in Paris. He worked with various news photo agencies until 1994, when together, Lélia and Sebastião founded Amazonas images, an agency devoted exclusively to his photographic work. Salgado has travelled to more than 100 countries for his photo projects, which besides appearing in the press, have also been published in book form, including Other Americas (1986), Sahel, l’homme en détresse (1986), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), Africa (2007) and Genesis (2013).

Salgado himself has since become the subject of works. The book From My Land to the Planet (Contrasto, 2014), was written by journalist Isabelle Francq. The film The Salt of the Earth (2014), a documentary on the life and work of Salgado, was directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders. Presented at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, the film was awarded the Special Prize in the Un Certain Regard section; it was also nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary, and finally won the award for best documentary film at the 2015 César Awards.
Deeply committed to environmental and humanitarian causes, Salgado has notably worked with Lélia since the 1990s towards the restoration of part of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, in the state of Minas Gerais.

Today, Salgado’s stirring exhibition, "Jardins Naturels", may be seen during visits to Château Palmer. To reserve, address a request by e-mail to chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com .

Archie Shepp, Charleston inspiration
One of the most widely played jazz pieces of its era, “Charleston” became the soundtrack of the Roaring Twenties.

Charleston, South Carolina
It’s a city of inspiration, of refined architecture and enchanting gardens. Gardens of memory, like those of the historic Magnolia Plantation. Home to the oldest unrestored gardens in America, it’s a place where humanity and nature seem to have struck a rare balance, a perfect harmony.
Here, nature thrives, speaks, shares and inspires; it awakens curiosity and excites creativity.
Perhaps it was these same gardens which, in 1923, whispered a few precious notes into the ear of the pioneering jazz pianist James Price Johnson, composer of the song “Charleston”.
One of the most widely played jazz pieces of its era, “Charleston” became the soundtrack of the Roaring Twenties. Later, it would also be the first song learned by a promising young talent, a seven-year-old boy who became one of America’s greatest jazzmen – the saxophonist Archie Shepp.
Archie Shepp discovered music with his father, who taught him his first chords, including those of “Charleston”. Thus began his long story with jazz. More than just his career, Shepp has devoted his life to music.
After decades of innovation, cadenced by one audacious recording and collaboration after another, on April 4, 2016, Shepp was recognized for his exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz when he received the NEA Jazz Masters award ­– the highest honour bestowed on jazz artists in America.
Now it’s this living legend who honours us, when on March 31, 2017, he comes to Château Palmer to interpret the 2016 vintage for the annual Hear Palmer concert.
Celebrating his 80th birthday this year, Archie Shepp continues to take us on fabulous journeys with his music. Journeys which, unconsciously, might even lead us back to the enchanted gardens of one genteel old city in South Carolina…

In the Heart of Winter  
In recent days, as a cold snap has swept across France, a delicate layer of ice has begun to cover the vineyards...

January 2017 – In recent days, as a cold snap has swept across France, a delicate layer of ice has begun to cover the vineyards of Château Palmer. A white frost.
 Surrounded by this silent nature, the vignerons have begun pruning the vines and carrying out an ensemble of winter duties; tasks with names like sécaillage, acanage and pliage.
Sécaillage, for example, refers to the upkeep of vine trellising, and consists of replacing broken stakes and repairing and retightening the guide wires which will support the vine in the year to come.
Acanage, or training, involves tying each vine trunk to its marker (a small stake) and the guide wire. This practice stabilizes the vines before the soil is worked. To provide the vine sufficient support it will need to be secured in three places: first around the trunk and then around each of its two branches. This winter task generally starts one or two weeks after the beginning of pruning. This year, we began training in mid-December.
At Château Palmer, the vines are trained using willow stems – sometimes called “withes” in English, or vimes in French – an ancestral method never abandoned here. The bond it creates is at once durable and natural. Depending on weather conditions, a willow knot can last between two and three years. When one eventually gives out, it simply falls to the ground, decomposing naturally in the soil, to be replaced by another.
To tie a willow knot, the vigneron wraps a willow stem around a vine trunk or a branch. Next she or he intertwines the ends of the stem together, and then bends one end of the stem back against the trunk or branch to ensure its hold. The other end of the stem is then clipped off. During the winter season, this series of movements is repeated, swiftly and assuredly, around 200 times a day by a vigneron.
Finally, pliage (literally “folding”), consists of bending down and binding to the guide wire each of the future fruiting canes (mature vine shoots selected and kept in place during pruning). The number of canes will depend on the vigour of each vine. At Château Palmer we generally preserve two.
So many intricate, meticulous tasks, realized by women and men of such rigour and patience…  it’s thanks to them that, when the frost recedes and spring returns, the vineyards will awaken anew.

November has come to an end... the 2016 vintage is maturing gently in the cellar, sheltered from the autumn chill.

December 2016 -  November has come to an end... the 2016 vintage is maturing gently in the cellar, sheltered from the autumn chill. But let’s look back now at those first, ever-singular steps taken by the new vintage.
Unlike the vines which have been quick to unveil their warm autumn colours – from orange to red to brown – in the vat room, the 2016 vintage took a little while before it finally slipped into its elegant ruby red. Thankfully, though a bit shy at first, the anthocyanins (natural pigments present in the grape skins which impart their colour to the wine) finally bestowed their lovely palette of deep and luminous reds.
As for the macerations, they too lingered a bit longer than usual. No risk of over-extraction this year, though, since the tannins had been ripened to perfection, thanks to the generous October sun. Thanks to this supple tannic structure, at once caressing and powerful, the wines are fleshy yet firm.
Another particularity of 2016: a very quick malolactic fermentation, thus yielding beautifully, sharply defined aromas during post-harvest vat tastings. The wines are now in barrel, ready to begin their long months of ageing. The first racking has taken place and the tastings to decide the final blend will begin during the month of December, when at last will be revealed the faces of Alter Ego and Palmer – the 2016 vintage…