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.

An Animal Story
Day after day, the men and women of Château Palmer listen to their terroir, work the soil, care for the grapevines, and,...

November 2018 – Day after day, the men and women of Château Palmer listen to their terroir, work the soil, care for the grapevines, and age their wine, ever working to see the estate flourish. And today, they can count on a few extra workmates… cows, sheep and goats (overseen by our shepherdess and cowherd, Emilie and Pierre) who contribute in equal measure to the health and resilience of the vineyards.

Bit by bit, the estate has recentered itself around cultivating life in its myriad forms. A self-sufficient farm, whose production of riches depends on the organisms of which it is comprised: the vine, the plants, the hedges, the fruit trees, the wildflowers, the animals, the insects… in sum, a virtuous circle.

Our Bordelaise cows have been among our leading actors within this agricultural organism. They graze our meadows, and enable us to produce a rich, high quality, ‘homemade’ compost, thanks to the manure they produce which is mixed with mulched vine shoots and green waste from the garden. It’s thanks to them that we can create our own biodynamic preparations as well, such as the 500. This enriches the soil with beneficial microorganisms that help nourish the vines. Today, our herd includes a dozen cattle, though it has grown since last month with the birth of three calves – Orlaya, Ombelle and Orchidée.

With the help of two shepherds, the winter maintenance of the vineyards is undertaken by a herd of more than a hundred sheep. From November to March, they roam the parcels, graze on the tender grass around the vine trunks, while fertilising the soil along the way, and heeding the sharp commands of our sheep dogs, Ben and Hip-hop. The rest of the year, Pyrénées goats will come and take over for our Landaise sheep, notably to maintain the edges of the vine parcels.

The development of these herds of cattle, sheep and goats has been carried out in close collaboration with the Conservatoire des Races d’Aquitaine, which works for the preservation of livestock breeds. It’s a project in spirit with this place and this era, as it involves working with local heritage breeds adapted perfectly to the estate and the environment, and is way for us to help ensure the survival of these breeds in danger of extinction. It must be said, Château Palmer is in good hands – and in good hooves!

A Matter of Taste
Early morning. The sun rises slowly over the vineyard, painting the sky in a vibrant red, melting into shades of orange...

September – Early morning. The sun rises slowly over the vineyard, painting the sky in a vibrant red, melting into shades of orange, then pale pink. This delicate light washes over the estate now. As the dew begins to slowly disappear under the morning sun, Thomas, Sabrina and Sylvain roam the vineyard, tasting.

September is an intense month on the estate, since it generally brings the beginning of harvest. This year, the harvest began September 13th with the parcels of young Merlot. And since the beginning of the month, every morning the technical team has tasted the berries to keep track of the grapes’ maturity levels. They walk the vine rows of every parcel, picking berries here and there, analysing the flavours and smoothness of tannins in the skins and seeds.

Tasting grapes is an art unto itself. It’s the first step towards truly distinguishing the similarities and differences between parcels. It’s the moment when we begin to group the grapes, and even to blend them, if only at first in our minds. Some will reach maturity earlier, revealing themselves before the others. Eventually, this entire puzzle of parcels will be sorted through.

These daily tasting walks allow us to evaluate three types of grape maturity: technological maturity, which reflects the balance of sugar and acidity, aromatic maturity which indicates the aromatic style of the vintage, and finally phenolic maturity, which allows us to judge the quality of the tannins and overall structure.

We seek the moment when these three types of maturity are in sync, so that only the most promising grapes enter the vats. Each vintage is different, unique, and to best respect its style, the decision of whether to harvest or wait must entail a very subtle equation indeed. Each day matters. It’s a countdown whose sum provides the first score of the vintage.

Raymond Depardon exhibits at Château Palmer 
Raymond Depardon was born in France in 1942. Son of farmers, he spent his childhood on the family farm in Garet...

September - “My parents knew before I did that I would never take over the farm, they were overwhelmed by my determination and my passion for photography.” Raymond Depardon.

Raymond Depardon was born in France in 1942. Son of farmers, he spent his childhood on the family farm in Garet, near de Villefranche-sur-Saône, until at age 16 he left for Paris to become a photographer – his first passion.

For years, he travelled the globe in search of images which recount the story of our world, first as a photographer, then as a filmmaker. Yet his parents’ farm and a sense that he had abandoned it always obsessed him, to the extent that it would appear implicitly in many of his works.
In the early 1980s, a commission by DATAR (the Interministerial Delegation for Territorial Development and Regional Attractiveness) provided him the opportunity to return to his native land. At the same time, a number of media assignments allowed him to photograph farmers in other regions. The rural world became his second passion, his most beloved subject.

In publishing his 1995 book, La Ferme du Garet, Raymond Depardon explored this primal bond with his land and his heritage. It would inspire a new project, lasting over a decade, of filming rural life in mountainous regions of 21st century France. So was born the film trilogy Profils Paysans, composed of L’approche (2000), Le quotidien (2005), and La vie moderne (2008). All throughout, the photographer has never ceased to capture – first in black and wine, then in colour – fragments of our world through his lens. 

The exhibition presented by Château Palmer, with the kind participation of Magnus Photos, is based on the 2008 book of the same name, and retraces this journey by presenting several bodies of images taken between 1960 and 2007. Together, they reveal Raymond Depardon’s deep and enduring attachment to “la terre des paysans” – the farmer’s earth.

The exhibition La Terre des Paysans by Raymond Depardon may be seen only during estate visits to Château Palmer, from September 11th to December 21st 2018. Length: 2 ½ hours - €70. Reservations by e-mail: chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com.


Gilberte and Abel Jean Roy, Servance, Haute Saône, 2005 © Raymond Depardon/MagnumPhotos

Marcel Privat, Le Villaret, Lozère, 2000 © Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos

“Les Américains”
With harvest time fast approaching, the work of green pruning is reaching its end. This extended viticultural period...

September 2018 - With harvest time fast approaching, the work of green pruning is reaching its end. This extended viticultural period encompasses three main tasks: raising the support wires, removing secondary shoots and desuckering. Desuckering is the art of removing non-fruit-bearing shoots growing directly on the trunk of the vine. This helps the vine to concentrate its energy in the fruit-bearing branches, those which will carry grapes. As for removing secondary shoots (or épamprage), this is done throughout the green pruning period. But there is one form of this task which is specific to the late summer season. “Nous terminons les américains” (We’re finishing the Americans) – so will the vignerons describe this other type of épamprage. Behind this rather odd expression hides an interesting story…

Vitis Vinifera is the principal species of grapevine historically cultivated in Europe, and includes such well-known varietals as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Until the 19th century, it was always planted “franche de pied”, meaning simply that it possessed its own root system. It was a vine that could weather anything. Anything, that is, except the disease of the century: phylloxera, a little sap-sucking aphid which feeds on a vine’s roots, resulting in deformations which gradually cut off the flow of nutrients and water, killing the vine. So it was that, starting in the 1860s, entire vineyard regions throughout France and Europe were destroyed, all because of this devastating little insect.
There are several theories regarding the origins of the phylloxera epidemic, and how it came to proliferate throughout our terroirs. The most widely accepted theory concerns the New World. As the world economy was rapidly developing in the 19th century, the increase in transatlantic exchanges and the decrease in the time necessary to traverse the ocean led to the arrival in Europe of phylloxera, a species hitherto unknown here.

Another theory, more prevalent in biodynamic circles, postulates on the contrary that this aphid has always been present here, and that Vitis Vinifera simply lost its natural capacity to resist it. The rationalisation of viticulture, the depletion of grape varietal diversity, and the shift to systematic propagation by root cuttings would be, among other factors, responsible.

To renew Europe’s vineyards, wine growers came up with the idea of employing a practice already common in arboriculture at the time: grafting. Grape varietals of the Vitis Vinifera species were thus grafted onto other species of Vitis from America, such as Vitis Rupestris or Vitis Berlandieri, which are resistant to phylloxera.

“Faire les américains”, signifies cutting the non-fruit-bearing shoots growing on the rootstock, that is to say the “American” part of the vine, which prevents the grafted Vitis Vinifera vine from being rejected by its host. This specific type of épamprage, carried out across the entire vineyard, constitutes a long and painstaking task. On average, the job entails pruning 600 vine plants per hour and per person. Enough to keep everyone busy until the harvest…

On the Memories of Vines
The sun has returned after five particularly rainy months, and the vignerons and vigneronnes...

July 2018 – The sun has returned after five particularly rainy months, and the vignerons and vigneronnes have begun the work of green pruning: desuckering, removing secondary shoots and raising the support wires.

In certain parcels, “bridges” are also being created between two shoots from adjacent vines. This technique, called le tressage (literally “braiding”), is used on parcels such as those situated on the Brauzes plateau.

The braiding of vine shoots is a manual practice which seems to be of particular interest for the grapevine.

In the wild, a vine depends on other plants to be able to grow and flourish. With the practice of braiding, we permit it to recreate these social links, this form of communication, which proves to be beneficial to its development. To accomplish the manoeuvre, one must first wait until the shoots begin to bend. At this point, instead of trimming them, we delicately intertwine the shoots of the two adjacent vines in the same row. Very soon the vine tendrils will become intertwined, and the two vines will become linked. They communicate.

Not trimming the vines also allows us to preserve its apex.

The apex is found at the end or tip of the plant. It is at once the seat of the vine shoot’s memory, its senses, and its decision-making – essentially, it’s the plant’s brain. Carrying a memory of the meteorological conditions of the vintage, the apex protects its shoot by sending back information to the plant, thus safeguarding the grapes it means to bring to maturity.

After several years of experimenting, we’ve noted that the creation of these bridges results in an improved management of the plant’s water consumption. And since we no longer trim the vine tips, it also limits the growth of secondary shoots. In the event of a rainy period, as was the case in the month of June, this technique helps to better aerate the grape bunches (after desuckering), which aids in keeping the berries dry and exposed to sunlight.

The vines are thus better prepared to withstand external threats, to deal with hydric stress, and to communicate with one another, while developing their root system and their leaf surface. A growing method more in harmony with their natural development. All to produce grapes of ever greater quality… and an apex full of memories.

Sèves Brutes: Raw Saps by Nathalie Rodach
How can we reveal all of life’s movements, of which the human eye captures but a fraction?

April 2018 - How can we reveal all of life’s movements, of which the human eye captures but a fraction?
With Sèves Brutes: Raw Saps, the visual artist Nathalie Rodach has traced an itinerary through three familiar Bordeaux sites to explore this monumental question. In so doing, she has charted a map of a universe hitherto invisible to us, presented in three parts: the future, the present, and the past.
The future at Château Palmer.
Nathalie Rodach allows us to see the invisible, the lifeblood flowing within. She explores the living by seeking inspiration in the notion of raw sap, this sap composed of water and mineral salts which flows up from the roots to nourish the plant and stimulate its growth. To comprehend this process, Nathalie Rodach roamed throughout the vineyards of Château Palmer, to better discern the secrets of the soil. Last February, the artist laid down a kilometre of natural red pigment between the vines, leading finally to the estate’s winery – a nervous system of vine sap laid bare, yet only visible in its entirety from the sky. As Nathalie Rodach shows, sometimes the closer we are, the less we perceive. The installation at Château Palmer has since been swept away by the elements. But the videos of its creation, accompanied by a series of drawings, together render the contours of an elusive future. They are exhibited at Bordeaux’s Arrêt sur l’Image Galerie.
The present is also on display at Arrêt sur l’Image Galerie, in the form of an immense drawing which weaves together the stark white of absence and the sanguine red of life. Each one of the 180 sheets which compose it are snapshots, moments of suspended present, like so many traces to confirm an existence. The beating pulse of the living punctuates all the works that Nathalie Rodach creates. Each line she traces is somehow animated, like threads of life.
The past is made visible at a second Bordeaux exhibition centre: MADD-Bordeaux, the Museum of Decorative Arts & Design of Bordeaux. In the museum’s courtyard, Nathalie Rodach has unveiled fossils in glass. They carry the traces of a life that vanished long ago, fixed in lava and in memory. From these frozen fragments, traversed by red, black and white, can we reconstruct what was lost?
The present and the interpretation of the future can be discovered from May 17th to July 13th 2018 at Arrêt sur l’Image Galerie (for details, visit www.arretsurlimage.com). The past can be explored from May 17th to September 17th 2018 at MADD-Bordeaux, the Museum of Decorative Arts & Design of Bordeaux (for details, visit www.madd-bordeaux.fr).

Mémoire de l’éphémère by Ernest Pignon-Ernest
A portrait of Pier Paolo Pasolini carrying his own lifeless body, pasted on walls in Ostia, Rome and Naples, the very cities.

April 2018 - A portrait of Pier Paolo Pasolini carrying his own lifeless body, pasted on walls in Ostia, Rome and Naples, the very cities where the writer and film director lived and died... Pasted along the docks in Brest, the image of a man being slammed to the wall by two others, held aloft by his arms as he is crucified – an homage to Jean Genet and his 1947 novel Querelle de Brest …

A pioneering artist, Ernest Pignon-Ernest’s works have often emerged out of literature, drawn not to be hung in museums, but to be installed in places where they will resonate with meaning. Known as a man of social commitment and modesty, the artist offers a historical and political vision of places, transforming the space where he intervenes into a veritable work of art, thus surprising passers-by an alternative reading of a quartier, a street, or an address. The works of Ernest Pignon-Ernest engage us. They are born, live and die in rhythm with the city, revealing a sacred dimension to the urban environment.
“My works arise from both a physical approach to a place a more symbolic approach to its history,” the artist explains.
“The place becomes the subject.”

The ephemeral nature of each work, its death all but preordained, is intended by Ernest Pignon-Ernest: “Fragility is one of the key elements of my work.”

Yet a singularity of the artist was the decision early in his career to photograph his works in situ, thus preserving a lasting trace of his passage. In partnership with Galerie Lelong & Co., an exhibition of 29 photographs by Ernest Pignon-Ernest at Château Palmer presents the works of this visionary artist. From Rome to Uzeste, from Naples to Paris and Brest, his oeuvre is one of imagery as wordplay, metaphors on presence and absence, the said and unsaid, poetry and political engagement, memories and the ephemeral…

The exhibition Mémoire de l’éphémère may be seen during estate visits to Château Palmer, from 5th May to 31st August 2018. To reserve, address a request by e-mail to chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com.

Picture: Rimbaud, Paris 1978

Under the River’s Sway
In the Médoc, it’s often said that “the great terroirs overlook the water”.

April 2018 - In the Médoc, it’s often said that “the great terroirs overlook the water”. Last vintage, it saved them, thanks to the shielding powers of the Gironde estuary, meeting place of the Garonne and the Dordogne.

With a significant lack of rainfall and a particularly mild February and March, we’d expected the vines to awaken early from their winter dormancy. Sure enough, starting late March and into the first half of April, the buds began opening amidst optimal growing conditions. Then, during the nights of 27th and 28th April, the Bordeaux region was unfortunately struck by a particularly brutal wave of frost. Thankfully, the river, acting as a veritable thermal buffer, would protect the majority of Château Palmer’s vineyards, being situated on the first gravel rises along the shore. Only a few plots inland to the west would suffer from freezing temperatures.

Finally, late May brought the fine weather which would provide ideal conditions for flowering, and the promise of an excellent harvest. The spring remained quite dry until the month of June. As summer began, it brought several rainy periods which helped us traverse the season in confidence, but would slightly prolong the vegetative growth of the vines. The berries’ colour change would take place on schedule in mid-August. The rains of September then speeded the maturation of the skins. And so, harvest arrived early, with the vendange launching officially on 20th September. First picked were the most beautiful plots of Merlot, soon followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Petit Verdot. By 29th September, the harvest was over.

From the moment vinification began, it became apparent that the conditions of the vintage, coupled by the respectful vineyard management methods we’d used to safeguard the terroir, would allow us to enjoy a great clarity of expression from our plots. For the very first time, the final blends of both wines were almost finished before the beginning of the malolactic fermentation.

Today, the 2017 vintage at Château Palmer is precise, without excess. The wines exhibit the elegant balance of our most classic vintages. Their velvety tannins and aromatic depth are promises of splendid ageing potential.

Hear Palmer 2017 by the Einar Scheving Quartet 
March 30th 2018. It’s 8 p.m., and the estate is bathed in darkness, seemingly dormant.

30th March 2018. It’s 8 p.m., and the estate is bathed in darkness, seemingly dormant. And yet, there’s light coming from the barrel cellar, and a festive, musical ambiance is in the air. The 9th edition of Hear Palmer is about to begin…

As the artists arrive, a round of fervent applause from the audience shakes the gravel in the nearest parcels. The jazzmen who form the Einar Scheving Quartet prepare to celebrate the 2017 vintage. For the next hour and a half, the audience is transported by their music, as they embark on a stroll between Iceland and Château Palmer. A seductive alchemy takes hold, between the freshness of the Icelandic melodies, the fragrance of the oak barrels, and the aromas of the nascent vintage.

As the concert comes to an end, silence returns to the “Jasmins” barrel cellar. With depth and delicacy, the musicians delivered an inspired interpretation of our two wines, Alter Ego and Château Palmer. Having first been heard, the wines are now ready to be tasted. And so begins en primeur week...
This 9th edition of Hear Palmer by the Einar Scheving Quartet has been broadcast on TSF Jazz radio in France on 6th April at 8:30 p.m., and on will be also on RÚV Radio in Iceland on 10th May at 16:05 p.m.

The entire concert can also be listened to now on the website www.hear-palmer.com.