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 a 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!