The Château Palmer grape harvest gives the impression of a gentle sprint, a controlled frenzy. Each person knows their role by their heart, making timely adjustments and reacting calmly in the face of unpredictable weather. And indeed, the expected — or rather dreaded — late-September rains lived up to the term "precipitation" in every sense of the word. These downpours kicked off the spectacle: the harvest of the 2021 vintage began three days early, on Friday, September 24, and ended in the second week of October after a marathon that proved to be more relaxed than expected. The solemn, heart-warming culmination of an intense year and a gloomy summer.
"It's a happy time for us," says Driss, a winemaker and groundskeeper on the estate. The rest of the year, we work in separate teams. The harvest is when we all come together to take part in the grand finale." Some 15 winemakers are working around him: the "cutters," red secateurs in hand, remove plump bunches of Merlot from the vines, alternating with the "porters" who, with crates harnessed to their backs, march back and forth between the vine stock and the truck. Château Palmer's permanent staff get to know the seasonal workers, including Carmen, who has travelled from the town of Gradignan with her son, or joke around with the apprentices, such as Isabella, accompanied by her dogs. Here, separating the grapes from each plot is as important as uniting those who harvest them. Fruit is divided; people are mixed together.
A few feet away, a group task is being completed by 16 refugees, including Abdil Basir, a former taxi driver from Afghanistan who arrived in France in 2019, and Abdul, originally from Sudan. "Some of them are eager to keep working on the vines after the harvest," says Stéphanie, wearing a blue Château Palmer "Vintage 2021" T-shirt. She and Émilie are also supervising a group from the local youth career centre, comprised of young adults from 16 to 25. For many of them, this is their first professional experience. "They get off the coach on the first day as if they were arriving at a holiday camp," say the two winemakers. "Then they discover the connection with nature and the rigor of our work. Guiding them takes a lot of energy and you have to really make yourself heard, but it's a fulfilling experience. We are team leaders, canteen staff and social workers all at once!"
A little further on, in the midst of the vines, three other figures are choreographing this autumnal dance: Thomas Duroux, director of Château Palmer, Sabrina Pernet, technical director, and Oriane Heuillet, head of research and development. Every day, these pillars of the estate scour the vineyard, smelling and tasting the grapes, comparing and deciding which plots to harvest first. Number 38, for example, can wait until Saturday, while number 70's clusters of Petit Verdot must be picked as soon as possible - and "gently," insists Sabrina, relaying instructions over the phone.
After a challenging year marred by a lack of sunshine, spring frosts, and persistent mildew, the trio seems to be reassured by their mobile tasting-session. "The tannins in this plot are fantastic," says Thomas Duroux, who is predicting "wines that might just surprise us."
Vintage 2019 - The School of Nature
In 2019, the Merlots enjoyed dry and sunny weather conditions up to the very end, giving rise to wines full of power, exuberance and flesh. The Cabernets, harvested after the scattered rains of late September, would develop a certain coolness and reserve, to produce wines of rare distinction. It is this uncommon marriage that has placed our two wines, Château Palmer and Alter Ego, in the rarefied circle of exceptional vintages.
Vintage 2018 - Unprecedented.
From December to July, incessant rains provoked the development of mildew. Then, during a hot, dry summer, the vines focused all their energy into the remaining grapes. Their power and concentration finally reached an exceptional level. In the winery, all of this led to an unprecedented decision: every lot would be selected for the blending of Château Palmer… Extraordinary.
VINTAGE 2017 - The wines exhibit the elegant balance of our most classic vintages.
In the Medoc, 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.
A promising summer for the 2015 vintage by Château Palmer
September 2015 - The summer is coming to a close, the temperatures are slowly dropping, the autumn light is filling the once summer sky. We are left with memories of a lovely summer in the Margaux appellation, especially the month of July.
July 2015 was a particularly hot and dry month. The average temperature was 21°C, 2°C above the average of the last thirty years, with highs reaching 37°C. This beautiful period of sunshine allowed the vines to focus on their richness, aromas, tannins, anthocyanins, sugars... However the rain was not plentiful and the 17mm that fell was far from sufficient. The vines, having used up the reserves in the ground, were starting to show signs of weakness. The small grape size bared witness to the situation and rain was eagerly awaited.
The month of August was a saving grace for the vines. The rain brought the vineyard back to life, the vine grew, the leaves regained their shine and the grapes continued to grow, making our winegrowers extremely happy. The veraison (the onset of ripening) was quick and homogeneous. The month of August gave us high expectations for the forth coming vintage.
The cool nights at the beginning of September, coupled with beautiful sunny days only reinforce this feeling. The 2015 vintage is already very promising and the date for the harvest is approaching quickly.
The benefits of herb teas on the vineyard
Over the past week, the risk of mildew contamination has been high. Partly due to the varying temperatures, oscillating from 6°C in to the morning to 23°C in the afternoon, and to significant rainfall (around 2mm every 3 days), perfect conditions to set off cryptogamic contamination.
It is therefore paramount to protect the vines and make every effort to prepare each plot thoroughly. As the vine is a living organism, it needs to be made stronger so as it can fight the elements and diseases naturally.
We use an ecosystem approach, as we believe that every element of the vineyard has its place and can play a role in the healthy growth of our vines. We develop natural and healthy preparations for the vines; one prepared using nettles growing on the propriety, the other using horsetail. The nettles, poured on the vines as herbal tea, act as a fertiliser and used before the flowering season ensures the vines come into bloom in the best possible conditions. The horsetail protects against cryptogamic disease, as it acts as a repellent against fungi. The fungi cannot contaminate the first leaves thanks to this preparation.
The nettles harvested around our plots are dried on site, as is the horsetail that is brought in. After infusing the nettles for around 20 minutes and the horsetail for 45 minutes, the herbal teas are applied one after the other to all of the vines.
We also produce our own compost. By giving the plots carefully monitored, natural fertilizer, we maintain the self-sustaining independent ecosystem... thus creating a virtuous, self-reinforcing circle.
Our aim, with this organic approach, is to cultivate a richer, stronger terroir and ensure its sustainability for future generations.
2014 Vintage Report - EN PRIMEUR - 200 years of Palmer
In 1814, General Charles Palmer purchased the wine estate of Madame de Gascq, and subsequently gave it his name. Two hundred years later, Château Palmer continues to write its own history from one vintage to the next.
Early in the summer, the sun had played and endless game of hide-and-seek. But when the 2014 harvest ended on Tuesday, October 14, it was under the same glorious sun that we had enjoyed all throughout September.
Everything had started quite well: a rainy winter had allowed the estate to renew its water reserves. In the spring, flowering went well, despite a few cases of poor fruit set among the older Merlots. At this point, we had high hopes for the quality of this new vintage.
But beginning in July, the weather became unstable and the vines focused on their fine foliage, to the detriment of their grapes. The month of August wasn't much better, veraison was slow and the berries began to swell . . .
Luckily the sun finally returned at the end of August. Little by little, September’s extraordinary weather conditions modified the profile of the 2014 vintage. The difference in veraison between the vines diminished and the size of the berries decreased, concentrating all the elements that make up this new vintage: sugar, anthocyanin and tannin levels all increased.
On September 22, we harvested the first plot, beginning with some young Merlots. The particularly good weather allowed us to harvest perfectly ripe grapes, with no risk of botrytis.
In the cellar, the spotlight was on innovation. After two years of experiments in reducing the level of sulfur in our wines, we decided to not add any sulfur to the harvested grapes to let them immediately express their complexity.
At this stage the wines of the 2014 vintage are an excellent reflection of the diversity of the estate’s plots. Each personality is expressed in these two blends as if a veil had been lifted. It is without a doubt one of the first results of our biodynamic approach.
Harvest dates: from 09/22/2014 to 10/14/2014
Château Palmer celebrates its 200th anniversary in music!
On the occasion of the 6th edition of Hear Palmer, Château Palmer will welcome the Big Band of the artist Dal Sasso on 27th March 2015.
Fourteen artists will give a unique jazz concert at the property, in the main cellar, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Château and to look back at a key period in its history: the acquisition of the estate by General Charles Palmer. The Big Band will interpret each important stage in the construction of the Château Palmer estate. It will be an event in which Jazz music transports us from 1814 to the present day, while also unveiling the new 2014 vintage.
The event will continue the next day, Saturday 28th March 2015 at Rocher de Palmer in Cenon, with the performance of John Coltrane's masterpiece A Love Suprem by the Dal Sasso Big Band.
You can already buy tickets for this unique event through the Rocher de Palmer website. 30 tickets are available.
1814-2014, 200 years later, Palmer's history is still being written...
Château Palmer, 16/06/2014
France, 1814... The Napoleonic period was coming to a close. Charles Palmer, at the time aide-de-camp in the British army to the Prince of Wales, was 37 when he boarded a coach that would take him from Lyon to Paris. It was journey that would forever change his destiny and alter the history of Palmer. A beginning for Palmer but a continuation for an estate whose archives show a vineyard planted in the 18th century.
During this three-day journey, Charles Palmer met a young widow on her way to Paris to sell her estate. With an astute sense of negotiation, Madame de Gascq presented her vineyard as the rival or the heir apparent to Château Lafite, the most illustrious estate of that period, a jewel of the Medoc. Ambitious and proud of his accomplishments, the young man had recently been promoted colonel a few days prior to his departure.
Legend holds that the gallant colonel was captivated, certainly by the lady... but also by the estate. He quickly fell under its spell. He dreamt of it. He could already imagine it... By the time the coach arrived in Paris, Charles Palmer was the new owner. On June 16, 1814, the act of sale was signed, and Charles Palmer gave his name to the Château.
200 years later, Palmer's history is still being written...
Vintage 2014, first impression
On Tuesday, October 14, the last day of harvest for the 2014 vintage took place under a radiant sun. This last day was the symbol of a miraculous month of September and first two weeks of October.
Taking a look back...
Everything had started off on the right foot: winter, with decent rainfall, allowed the soil to renew its water reserves. Then came spring where the vine flowered well despite a bit of coulure on the older Merlots. At this stage, hopes were high regarding the quality of this new vintage.
The situation changed as soon as July arrived: unstable weather made vacationers wince and the vines concentrate on growing their leaves instead of their grapes. The month of August was not much better, the berries changed color slowly, swelling with the rain water as our morale slumped.
The situation again changed as vacation ended: if our vineyard workers hadn't enjoyed the sunshine at the beach, they certainly did in the vineyard!! The extraordinary weather conditions for the month of September modified little by little the profile of 2014. Veraison levels evened out, berry size shrank and concentrated the key elements to this new vintage: sugar, anthocyanes and tannic levels all increased.
On September 22, we harvested our first parcel of young Merlot. The particularly clement weather accompanied us throughout the first three weeks of harvest, allowing us to pick perfectly ripe grapes, with no risk of botrytis, an important risk factor in organic agriculture.
All tanks have finished alcoholic fermentation, our first impressions were very encouraging: the Merlots full and seductive, the Cabernet Sauvignons clean and linear while the Petits Verdots quite exuberant. The malolactic fermentation finishes in mid-december, we will have all the elements to understand the definitive balance of our three varietals... and to begin imagining the blends.