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22.01.2018
Shear Precision – Pruning
It’s middle of winter, yet there are vignerons and vigneronnes out roaming the frigid vineyards. Step by step...

January 2018 – It’s middle of winter, yet there are vignerons and vigneronnes out roaming the frigid vineyards. Step by step, they pause at each vine to perform what is one of the most delicate tasks in the vineyard, one which will directly influence the next harvest – pruning.

The grapevine is a climbing plant which, much like a bonsai, must constantly be contained. A task of precision and of architecture, wherein every stroke of the pruning shears must land just so if the following year’s production and the vines’ longevity into another century are to be ensured.  

This year, pruning at Château Palmer began on November 30th 2017. The final days of autumn brought heavy rains, making for especially arduous work. The most vigorous Merlot vines are always pruned first, as the grape variety is quite resistant to wood diseases. Then come the Merlot requiring special care, followed at last by the youngest vines. This prioritization pays dividends later, as it helps to harmonise the bud break periods of the vine shoots. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines, more sensitive by comparison, will only be pruned later, at the end of winter.

All the vines, however, are pruned according to the same double Guyot method, in which a vine trunk’s two arms are each left with one long, mature vine shoot called an aste or fruiting cane, and sometimes a cot de retour or renewal spur (a short shoot to be trained as a new fruiting cane in the following season). The method reduces the quantity of grapes on each vine while favouring their quality. An additional pruning method, the Poussard method, is also used to ensure sap flow continues unimpeded over time. When work is done, the vine shoots are collected and shredded for use in producing compost. In this way, the cuttings will nourish the same vines from which they came.

Pruning is a painstaking job, to which the vignerons and vigneronnes must dedicate themselves throughout the winter. But thanks to them, the creation of the next vintage has already begun.

 

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12.01.2018
Jeux d’écriture by Bernard Plossu
A new year of exhibitions begins at Château Palmer with the photographer Bernard Plossu...

January 2018 – A new year of exhibitions begins at Château Palmer with the photographer Bernard Plossu, who from January 13th to April 27th 2018 will present his series Jeux d’écriture ~ Wordplay, organized in partnership with Bordeaux’s Arrêt sur l'Image Galerie.
 
Jeux d’écriture is a series of 37 photographs by Bernard Plossu, accompanied by texts drawn from his published works*, which convey expressions of our modern times. Images captured in a moment’s luck and by a talent refined over time, with poetry, humour, and always by the same techniques: the photographer has remained ever loyal to his 50-mm lens, his analogue film and the black & white image.

Born in 1945 in South Vietnam, Bernard Plossu is a man of letters. Since the second half of the 20th century, his photographs have captured the words of our daily lives around the globe, like visual haikus. “Guns” on an Arizona shopfront, “À l’avenir” on a building in France, “Diablos en el cielo” on a wall poster in Mexico… all these messages and symbols that shape the modern landscapes around us, the photographer frames them in his images, presenting them in a new light, to render compositions both poetic and illuminating.

The exhibition Jeux d’écriture may be seen during estate visits to Château Palmer, from January 13th to April 27th 2018. To reserve, address a request by e-mail to chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com.
 
* “Les mots de l’image”, by Jean-Louis Fabiani and Bernard Plossu, Yellow Now
“L’hippocampe et le rétroviseur”, by François Carrassan and Bernard Plossu, Les Cahiers de l’Égaré

 

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05.12.2017
Winter Recipe
Winter. There’s a thin layer of frost this morning, covering the gardens, the houses. The landscape is captivating.

December  2017 – Winter. There’s a thin layer of frost this morning, covering the gardens, the houses. The landscape is captivating. Immaculate. Winter has conquered every nook and cranny. The air is bracing.
 
Walking through the park surrounding the château, we suddenly notice a faint aroma, which titillates the senses and warms the heart. An olfactory awakening. Seiji Nagayama, the chef of Château Palmer, is busy in the kitchen. He’s peeling, cutting, cooking, seasoning… On the menu today is tourte de pigeon – a pigeon pie with ceps and smoked bacon, served with a parsnip purée. A truly festive meal, which Seiji invites us to prepare with him.
 
Tourte de pigeon – Pigeon Pie (for 4 people):
 
- 4 whole pigeons
- 1 egg
- 50g of smoked bacon
- 100g of ceps
- 1 puff pastry
 
Parsnip purée:
- 2 parsnips
- 25g of hazelnut butter
- 50g of semi-skimmed milk
- salt, pepper
 
Remove the pigeon breasts, take off the skin and season to taste.
Sear the four pigeon breasts then place them in the refrigerator. Once cooled, pass the meat through a grinder with the bacon.
Dice the ceps and fry them. Place them in the refrigerator. Retrieve the ground meat, add ½ of a beaten egg and stir until well mixed. Add the ceps.
Wrap the mixture in the puff pastry and brush it with the other half of the beaten egg so that it will turn a golden brown in the oven. Bake the pie in the oven at 200ºC for 15-20 minutes.
Peel the parsnips and cut them into small pieces. In a saucepan, moisten the parsnips with water and a pinch of salt. Simmer. Add the hazelnut butter and the milk. Once cooked, pass the mixture through a strainer.

All that remains now is to invite your guests to table to savour together this succulent, hearty dish, which pairs marvellously with a Château Palmer 2008.  A truly heart-warming holiday meal, to help brave the December chill.

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15.11.2017
A finishing touch
Winter is slowly setting in. The sun’s heat is waning, the leaves dressed in their warm autumn colours have begun to fall.

November 2017 – Winter is slowly setting in. The sun’s heat is waning, the leaves dressed in their warm autumn colours have begun to fall. In the winery, the effervescence of the harvest period has subsided. The malolactic fermentation has finished and the wine in barrels will now begin its maturation.

The 2017 vintage will henceforth lie in the estate’s historic barrel cellar, known as le chai des Marronniers. To walk the corridors formed by the stacked barrels, one may notice how some are marked differently from the others. These are the barrels of press wine.

The press wine is a concentrate of the vintage. It is composed of the wine made by gently pressing the grape pomace. The pomace is made up of the skins and seeds which settle to the bottom of the vats once the “free-run wine”* is drawn off. The richness of the press wine is due to the abundant anthocyanins and tannins present in the pomace. One full winepress will suffice to fill three barrels with this powerful wine. They will then be marked in the following manner: barrel number, vat number. This marking will make it possible to identify the barrels and their contents.
The press wine is aged under the same conditions as the free-run wine. When the malolactic fermentation has finished, the wine in barrels will begin its slumber in the cellar, cooled to 13ºC, the optimum temperature for ageing.

At the end of the month of November, we will begin tasting the press wines. These tastings will allow us to identify the best lots to be added during the final blending of the vintage. A concentrated note. A finishing touch.

*Free-run wine = free run wine is made from the grape juice that is drawn from the vat before the harvest has been pressed in the winepress

 

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02.10.2017
Harvest Time
September 2017 - Vendange: noun (in France) the grape harvest. – Oxford Dictionary

September 2017 - Vendange: noun (in France) the grape harvest. – Oxford Dictionary

At Château Palmer, harvest time is fast approaching…

With the arrival of every autumn, the pace of life on the estate quickens… exponentially. Each year, the start of the grape harvest produces a wonderful commotion. Vibrant. Every man and woman animated at their post.

At the end of each day, after having tasted grapes across the vineyards, we decide which parcels to harvest the next day, as not all will reach maturity simultaneously.

A timetable that must be rewritten day after day.

In the vineyards, grape harvesters collect the bunches, one snip after another. These are placed in cagettes or bins which are loaded onto tractors. Thus begins the parade of machines which will bring the precious harvest to the sorting tables. A great number of nimble hands now take over to separate the berries from the leaves. The grapes are then destemmed, pass through an optical sorter and into stainless steel mini-vats, to finally be transported by gravity into the large vats where the alcoholic fermentation begins…

The rhythm is unrelenting, a feverish cadence.

Finally, with some out harvesting in the vineyards and others sorting under the grape reception area, the lunch hour arrives. Each meal during harvest time is a singular moment, as everyone gathers in the banquet hall. A chance for sharing and cheer. Because even over lunch, the life of the estate doesn’t stop. Quite the contrary.

It’s a moment of life at its simplest and most vital, shared by the men and women who make the wine. This is the heart of Château Palmer.

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13.09.2017
2006, ten years later
When asked what he considered the ideal point at which to appreciate one’s wines, the professor Emile Peynaud,

When asked what he considered the ideal point at which to appreciate one’s wines, the professor Emile Peynaud, father of modern oenology, submitted the following response: “When it comes to Grand Crus Classés, which constitute the majority of my personal cellar, I almost never drink a bottle before it reaches ten years of age, as a principle.”
 
Château Palmer 2006. A decade has elapsed since its birth. While still in barrels, it was a profound and harmonious wine, marvellously aromatic and already complex. A wine full of promise. Stunning. And then, once bottled and safely stored away, it seemingly settled into a deep sleep. In the years that followed, we regularly revisited this beautiful vintage at various tastings. But it was only in May 2016, on the occasion of a dinner held in the château’s dining room, that we finally rediscovered the 2006 vintage that had charmed us all a decade earlier. The wine had awoken.
 
An absolute delight. The colour, radiant as ever, has now begun to reveal subtle, welcome nuances of age. Notes of redcurrants are gently fading to make way for a spicier palette, combining perfumes of precious woods and aromatic herbs. The tannins remain firm while boasting that distinctive smoothness which characterises the estate’s wines.
 
A few remaining bottles of Château Palmer 2006, preserved in the estate’s historic cellars since the day they were bottled, will be released this autumn. One final time.
Ten years later, the wine is enchanting. Ready to be tasted at last …
 

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07.09.2017
Voyages insulaires by Maitetxu Etcheverria
From September 2nd to December 20th, Château Palmer hosts a new exhibition.

September 2017 - From September 2nd to December 20th, Château Palmer hosts a new exhibition. After having travelled the world with Jardins Naturels by Sebastião Salgado, this autumn we return to the Médoc with an exhibition based on the series Voyages insulaires by Maitetxu Etcheverria.
 
Decors of all kinds have always fascinated the photographer. In Paris, she immersed herself in the set building workshops of Fémis, the world-renowned school of cinema. Later in Bucharest, she explored the city’s movie studios. Ever seeking new frames of reference, she changes perspectives, countries, eras... Fascinated by the disappearance of the island of Trompeloup, swallowed up by the tides off the shores of Pauillac, the photographer has focused her gaze upon the Gironde estuary for two years now. This series of 25 photographs captures an environment in a state of perpetual change – the estuary’s string of islands, whose shapes fluctuate in sync with the river’s currents, and whose landscapes evolve in rhythm with the seasons of peripatetic agricultural workers.
Certain islands have been inhabited and cultivated through the centuries. Just under a dozen of them were thus settled by man. Yet as time has passed and agriculture evolved, gradually the islands have been deserted, with nature reconquering them and their neglected embankments. Today, they’ve become a cultural and geological heritage in need of preservation.

The series Voyages insulaires is co-produced by the Fonds régional d'art contemporain (Frac) Aquitaine, the departmental institute of artistic cultural development (IDDAC), arrêt sur l'image galerie and Château Palmer, with the support of the Conseil départemental de la Gironde, the association Gens d’estuaire, , the Photographic Contemporary Art Center - Villa Pérochon (CACP) in Niort and Central DUPON Images. The series earned Maitetxu Etcheverria a 2017 individual creative grant award from Drac Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
 
The exhibition Voyages insulaires may be seen during visits to Château Palmer from September 2nd to December 20th 2017. To reserve, address a request by e-mail to chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com.

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23.08.2017
Where water flows…
The sun is shining; the summer season has reached its apogee. The landscape is rich and verdant.

August 2017 – The sun is shining; the summer season has reached its apogee. The landscape is rich and verdant. The vegetation is dense green and the vines have begun to flash with colours – mauve and violet. But one element is far more discrete, translucent even – water.
 
At first glance, across the vineyard, water is seemingly inexistent. Instead, what stands out are vine parcels, young trees, a line bushes being grown to create a hedge, some tall grasses… Then, upon second look, this landscape’s largest body of water comes in view – the Gironde, flowing slowly towards the coast to rejoin the ocean depths. As one moves deeper into the vineyards, other smaller water sources reveal themselves. Almost forgotten, a handful of streams traverse the vine parcels and fields, with such names as l’Ontic, la Laurina and la Maqueline.
 
Elusive as it is, water plays an essential role in the life and equilibrium of our ecosystem. It allows it to thrive, to proliferate, to diversify. Throughout the vineyards, the water points draw numerous species which will impact, directly or indirectly, the vines and surrounding vegetation. Birds and insects come to quench their thirst. So-called water treatment plants develop in the ditches and wetland areas where they purify the water, improving its quality to better nourish the terroir. Encouraging the natural drainage of water is also beneficial, as water captures and attenuates surrounding vibrations, both good and bad. Dynamic, freely moving water thus proves highly favourable to its environment.
 
Indeed, by simply allowing water to circulate naturally, both above and below the vineyard, the entire ecosystem, in all its richness and complexity, is reinforced. The variegation of a landscape helps to increase the density of its biodiversity, which once in balance, allows for all species to cohabitate. A vital challenge, whose import is clear as water.

Photo : The Ontic stream, Boulibrane, plot 64.
 

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10.07.2017
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.

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