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13.11.2019
The 2019 Harvest: An Encounter with Théo Ceccaldi
The score for the 2019 vintage is written, the harvest has ended and given way to vinifications.

October 2019 — The score for the 2019 vintage is written, the harvest has ended and given way to vinifications. On the 8th of October, Théo Ceccaldi – who will unveil the new vintage with a jazz concert this spring – came to draw his first inspirations at Château Palmer. With Thomas Duroux as his guide, this day of harvesting and discovery at the estate allowed him to experience the birth of the vintage that he will be interpreting next March.

Afterwards, he shared with us his first impressions.

Listen to Théo Ceccaldi's harvest playlist:

 

Listen to the playlist

 

Interview

Palmer: You were among the artists invited for the 10th edition of Hear Palmer to accompany Émile Parisien during his concert at Le Rocher de Palmer. But you didn’t have a chance to visit the estate?

Théo Ceccaldi: No, I went directly to Rocher de Palmer for the concert. I’d only come over for the day because I was on tour at the time. So I never had the chance to discover Château Palmer. Here, what’s cool has been having this time to really be steeped in the history of this cuvée. My experience last year was more stressful… For me, this 2019 cuvée is a bit like a rebirth.

P: It sounds like you’re already looking forward to unveiling this 2019 vintage.

T.C.: Absolutely, I think it’s going to be joyous! This music we’ve been creating with my trio Django is like a kind of road we’re building, leading us places that are a bit mysterious, sometimes a bit dark, but always with the same excitement and joy of sharing. There’s something very positive about it, something that sparkles, and I think that fits quite well with all that’s happening here. So I think it’s going to be day that recounts a special story all its own!

P: You were eager to come experience the birth of the 2019 vintage at harvest time. Immersing yourself in a place and a history, is that essential for you when you’re preparing to improvise?

T.C.: Yes, to soak up the ambiance of a place, of a whole team… There is a real spirit shared by people here, a genuine pleasure and passion you feel among those who work for Palmer. And Thomas is a fountain of knowledge; he knows the region and the terroir so well. To discover that the quality of soil can change completely when you move just 1 or 2 metres, from gravel soils, to earthy soils, to much more clayey soils like those found along the river; to learn the differences that that result from this in the vines and the wines; to understand that it’s the oldest vines that create the finest wines; to recognise the differences between the grape varieties; to realise that in one cuvée there are several grape varieties blended together, and how there are different stages of fermentation… All of this is really inspiring.

P: In your eyes, is the link between jazz and wine an obvious one?

T.C.: I was talking with Thomas precisely about that. What I find interesting is how, here too, every year creating wine involves a lot of interpretation and improvisation. Music as I conceive it is nourished by many forms of music and many other influences. In the same way that to successfully blend a wine we must taste and taste and then add more or less on each terroir and each grape variety. It’s a mélange, a mixture, and with music it’s basically the same thing.

And then there’s a second level. There’s also the fact that you must constantly react to the vagaries of weather. One year, you will have a wine with a bit more backbone, and the next you’ll have a more solar wine… You have to know how to manage all this to create something with balance and harmony. You also have to be able to deal with the wider environment. To bring animal life into the equation, and to take into account the entire ecosystem, is to remain attuned to your entourage, which is so essential when performing jazz, this music of constant movement.

It’s all about movement! There is no set recipe, nothing is definitive. We’re constantly seeking ways to renew ourselves, other means of enrichment and improvement. And the music that I love is that which is adventurous, which emerges from a desire to explore new horizons. So all of that speaks to me, these are areas of correspondence, of obvious similarity.

P: How are you preparing for the revelation of this new vintage, and for your role as the chief curator of all the music for this year’s event?

T.C.: I’m so pleased about it! I like to think that it will be something of a made-to-measure evening, conceived especially for this vintage. I don’t yet know what form it will take… Either it will involve the composition of a work in honour of the vintage, or else the reinterpretation of an existing work, dedicated to this vintage. In any case, I love the idea of playing in the cellar, in this vast space surrounded by barrels. It’s going to be special!

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10.10.2019
The Taste of Harvest
It’s a crucial period of the year in Bordeaux, with harvest season already in full swing at Château Palmer for more than two
October 2019 – It’s a crucial period of the year in Bordeaux, with harvest season already in full swing at Château Palmer for more than two weeks. The grapes that have reached full maturity are being carefully harvested from parcel to parcel. The freshly picked bunches are carried to the sorting table where a team attends to the removal of leaves and damaged berries. In the estate’s vat room, the tanks are filled methodically so that each will contain only a single lot of grapes from a specific parcel.
 
Next comes the tasting of the juice, which takes place every morning in the tasting area of the vat room. Thomas, the director of the estate, Sabrina, the technical director, Olivier, the cellar master, and Hervé, who runs the analysis laboratory, all come together to taste each of the lots and to lay down the programme of tasks, like remontage or pumping over the must, for the following day.
 
At this stage, certain musts still have sugars remaining, while others, notably from the first parcels harvested, have finished their alcoholic fermentation. The tasters concentrate on their texture, their tannic structure, and their acidity, to guide them in setting the rhythm and volume of pump-overs for all the vats.
 
This morning tasting is a decisive moment, when choices made in managing a vinification will contribute to shape the new vintage. It’s an exercise which requires an acute knowledge of Château Palmer’s vineyards, to be able to make decisions that will allow this 2019 vintage to fully express all the richness, nuance, complexity, and beauty of our terroir.
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10.09.2019
"Jazz, the sound of New-York" by Philippe Lévy-Stab
Château Palmer welcomes the exhibition “Jazz, the Sound of New York” by Philippe Lévy-Stab.
September 2019 - Château Palmer welcomes the exhibition “Jazz, the Sound of New York” by Philippe Lévy-Stab. Composed of portraits of great jazzmen and perspectives of urban landscapes, the exhibition retraces a unique creative project developed over the course of the last thirty years by the photographer. From 2nd September to 20th December 2019, the photographer’s universe unites with that of the estate, brought together by a shared passion for jazz.
 
Philippe Lévy-Stab has been encapsulating the spirits of the greatest figures in jazz since he was a teenager. In photos taken over the course of all-night sessions in Manhattan clubs, he captures the inspiration and singularity of these musicians. By exposing them on paper he gives form to the intangible, printing black and white photographs that reveal the humanity of such artists as Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Wynton Marsalis, and Archie Shepp.
 
Spontaneous by nature, jazz is generally not a conducive setting for long portrait sittings. In adapting to this constraint, the photographer created his own style. His photographs are the fruit of short, five-minute shooting sessions directly in front of the musicians, a proximity made possible by the relationships and trust he’s developed over three decades of immersion in the jazz world.
 
Philippe Lévy-Stab’s images also celebrate New York, whose rhythms the photographer has internalised through years of walking its streets. For him, the links between music and urban landscapes are palpable. As Lévy-Stab puts it, “If jazz were a cry, it would be that of New York itself, this city of such energy it forges its own reality, where the spirit of jazz reveals its deepest truths.”
 
The exhibition “Jazz, the sound of New-York” by Philippe Lévy-Stab may be seen during estate visits to Château Palmer, from 2nd September to 20th December 2019. Length: 2 ½ hours - 70€ - Reservations by e-mail: chateau-palmer@chateau-palmer.com
 
 
Roy Hargrove - City Hall Park, New York 2009
Gelatin silver print 100x100cm - Ed. of 5.
©Philippe Lévy-Stab
 
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30.08.2019
The Benefits of Compost
Composting is the ideal process for recycling all the organic materials that would otherwise be thrown away at...

August 2019 — Composting is the ideal process for recycling all the organic materials that would otherwise be thrown away at Château Palmer. It is composed of four elements. Animal manure comes from the cattle and sheep that our shepherds care for. Vine cuttings are gathered up by our vineyard manager, the vignerons and the tractor drivers. Waste remaining from the harvest is made up of grape stems and waste from the sorting tables (grapes, insects, leaves). Green waste from our gardens includes branches, twigs, peelings and much more. All of these elements that enter into creating the compost are collected throughout the year, with the exception of harvest waste, which is amassed from September to October. All of it is kept in piles on a specially dedicated parcel of land.

In the month of August, the four piles are mixed together using a blending mill. The compost is laid out in windrows, or long swathes, across the ground. Biodynamic preparations made from plants are added to encourage the transformation into compost. It’s at this moment that a fermentation begins, reaching a temperature of 60°C, and causing water to evaporate.

The compost will evolve and slowly stabilise over several months. This richly complex process will yield numerous benefits for the vines and the soil. It can be used when still “young”, after around four months of maturation, or when “old”, after more than six months of maturation. “Young” compost will have high concentrations of nitrogen compounds that will be beneficial for the plant. “Old” compost will be richer in carbon and represent a valuable contribution to the soil. The dispersal of compost in the vineyard takes place between December and January, notably when planting new vines, but also for certain parcels already in production.

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12.08.2019
Blending and composing
The cellar master and his team are the composers of the Château Palmer wines. They conduct the various...

August 2019 - The cellar master and his team are the composers of the Château Palmer wines. They conduct the various stages of winemaking to showcase the wine's complexity and balance. In particular, they combine, or in other words, blend, several lots of grapes. 

The wines of each vintage are blended twice to achieve an ideal balance.

A few months after the harvest and before the en primeur tastings, the first blend is made, and our two wines are hereby created: Château Palmer and Alter Ego.

Each batch is put in barrel following fermentation. Ageing begins, during which each batch is tasted regularly to help us decide on the final blend. The winemakers choose the ideal proportions for the powerful and well-structured Château Palmer, and for the more spontaneous and fruity Alter Ego. Both wines feature a smooth, delicate structure, which is emblematic of the estate.

The wines are blended for the second time before bottling, i.e. after 20 to 22 months of barrel ageing. The aim is to produce homogeneous wines, that will then be put in vats again.

The team finished blending the 2017 vintage over the last few weeks, thus concluding the winemaking process. 

Like a score, the notes combine in harmony to create a beautiful piece of music. Composing has now come to an end, leaving room for endless interpretations when these bottles will be shared and enjoyed.

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11.06.2019
Floral interlude
The time has come again for a floral interlude in the vines at Château Palmer. As the flower buds disappear...

June 2019 – The time has come again for a floral interlude in the vines at Château Palmer. As the flower buds disappear, grape blossoms are discretely revealing themselves throughout the vine rows. Their perfume wafts through the air almost imperceptibly, so subtle and delicate are the aromas.

Though the flowering period is generally brief, spanning between 8 and 10 days, it is one of the most important stages in a vine’s life cycle. As hermaphroditic plants, simultaneously possessing both male and female reproductive organs, vine flowers pollinate each other: sometimes within the same flower, often between flowers of the same bunch, sometimes between bunches on the same vine, and sometimes even between neighbouring vines, with help from various species of insects and birds.

While carrying out the work of desuckering the vines, the vignerons and vigneronnes of Château Palmer become spectators of this natural evolution. Perfect weather conditions are necessary at the moment of flowering: sunny, dry and hot, between 18 and 25 ºC. Only then do the flowerhoods delicately open to reveal the pistils and stamens. Afterwards, the flowers will gradually disappear, giving birth to a multitude of tiny berries. However, should weather conditions be changing and less favourable, they can bring about flower abortion or couluring, causing an imperfect pollination of certain flowers.

The quality of flowering will be a first indication of the potential size of the coming harvest. Of course, this estimation isn’t set in stone, for the growth cycle of the vines continues. But today, this floral expression comes as a great bouquet of hope for Château Palmer... even if there’s still a way to go yet before the 2019 vintage is harvested!

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29.04.2019
2018, the unprecedented vintage
From dread at first, to delight at last!

April 2019 - From dread at first, to delight at last! From December to March, it rained cats and dogs on the Médoc, saturating and chilling the soil. Naturally, the buds were in no hurry to show their faces. Spring arrived, but the rain continued, falling incessantly amidst unseasonably cool temperatures. Despite the considerable care and attention of our teams, it was only a matter of time before mildew moved into the vine rows. The vines’ defences were tested to the extreme. Our vignerons blanketed them with care, tending to each plant with herbal teas and Bordeaux mixture, and thinning their leaves to keep the grapes aerated.
 
And then a miracle occurred. Summer arrived in all its glory – hot, dry, and restorative. Come the first week of August, the berries began their colour change. All summer long, they bathed in perfect sunlight while enjoying cool nights and not a drop of rain. As the vines concentrated all their energy into the surviving bunches, a glow of rebirth spread through the rows.
 
What resulted was a level of tannic and aromatic concentration in the grapes that has rarely been seen in the history of the estate. Daily tastings during the vinifications confirmed the incredible potential of the harvest. The extraordinary power of every lot of juice brought us to make an unprecedented decision: they would practically all be incorporated into the final blend of a truly exceptional Château Palmer, and there would be no Alter Ego this year.
 
In the constellation of the great vintages of Château Palmer, 2018 already shines with singular splendour.

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01.03.2019
Final months of maturation for the 2017 vintage
The 2017 vintage continues its maturation in barrels in the historic chai des Marronniers barrel cellar.

March 2019 - The 2017 vintage continues its maturation in barrels in the historic chai des Marronniers barrel cellar. One year after the final blending, the wine slowly refines in the darkness of the cellar, and in the precision hands of our technicians. 

During the final months of maturation, the wine requires, among other things, two important procedures: le collage, or fining, and la levée de colle, or post-fining racking

Fining a wine simply entails adding egg white to it. Naturally binding with the fine suspended particles remaining, it gathers them into a heavier mass which will settle to the bottom of the barrel over time. The final, post-fining racking, or levée de colle, will allow us to separate the wine, which will have become clearer and more brilliant, from the lees or the deposit left at the bottom of the barrel.

As at every stage, our taste buds will be our guides. To be able to determine the right level of fining needed by the wine, we carry out tests beforehand, using between 0 and 5 egg whites per barrel. Afterwards, we taste again and retain the level of fining that we’ve determined will sublimate the wine.

Today, the cellar is entirely focused on this final racking operation, the last step before the wine is bottled this summer. To delicately separate the clear wine from its lees, we use the ancestral method of levée de colle à la bougie – by candlelight. The wine flows out of the barrel, illuminated by the glowing flame, and as soon as the slightest haze begins to disturb the radiance highlighted by the candle, we stop. The wine is then clear, with a beautiful, lustrous sheen.

 

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