Checking the vines. Photo courtesy of Château Palmer.
How is climate change affecting the vineyards?
Climate change is a given. There’s no doubt that temperatures here in Bordeaux, for example, are much higher than in previous decades. But it’s difficult to know exactly how it will affect us. If the Gulf Stream disappears, we might have much cooler winters and even hotter summers. For now, we don’t really know what will happen.
Here at Palmer, we’re doing all we can to anticipate any changes. We believe that our biodynamic systems will create a strong link between the vines and the microbiotic elements to make the plants stronger and more resilient — able to thrive in tough conditions.
You’ve described the 2015 Palmer as one of the vintages of the century. What do you think makes it so great?
A combination of several things. First at Palmer, we have a great and unique terroir. Secondly, for almost 10 years now, we have been changing our cultivation and techniques, going away from chemicals and following biodynamic philosophies. 2015 was the first big step. That year particularly, we could clearly see results from all the changes. And, of course finally, 2015 was especially good in Margaux. Great conditions throughout the appellation.
Your ratings in 2016 – also considered an extraordinary vintage – were quite good as well. Could you discuss the differences in the two vintages?
Both years are two entirely different expressions, just like 2009 and 2010. Discussion could go on all our lives about these four vintages. In the case of 2015 and 2016, both will have their time to be enjoyed. 2015 offers more pleasure just now. In ten years the same. But in 30, who knows — perhaps by then the 2016 will be the better wine.
Where will Palmer be in 20 years?
What I’d like to see in 20 years is a farm in harmony, almost autonomous — less and less vulnerable to disease and unbalanced situations. I also want a wine with a strong identity — so much so that it could not possibly be mistaken for another wine.
Why is it that Palmer, more so than many other wines, has such a faithful following?
Palmer is a strange beast. It doesn’t know if it’s a Third Growth or Super Second. But it does have a very unique identity and style that over a number of years has attracted dedicated aficionados.
One thing for sure is that when we put our label on a bottle of wine, the wine must deserve the label. 2013, for example, was a very difficult vintage. In the end, we produced only 3,500 cases. Very small, because we felt that was the only way to have a product we’d be proud of.
For me, it’s been an enormous pleasure to continue the work and effort of the many people who came centuries before us and to also have a relationship with these devoted collectors.
When did you decide that winemaking would be your life’s work?
When I was 11, I was very interested in biology and in possibly becoming a surgeon. At 18, I enrolled in courses to become an engineer with a focus on agronomy. During this time I and several of my classmates began raiding the cellar of a family friend.
Eventually the cellar owner noticed bottles disappearing and summoned us to discuss the missing inventory. We expected him to be furious with us, but no. “The problem,” he said, “is not so much that you are taking the bottles, it’s that you don’t know what you’re drinking.” He then began meeting regularly with us to taste and discuss wine. I enjoyed these conversations tremendously and realized at some point, that my future might lie in wine.
You’re a great fan of jazz. Has your love of music at all impacted your work with wine?
I love to have a glass of wine while listening to jazz. It’s something I do every day. Music is inspiring. In French I would say “La musique ouvre le champ des possibles.” In English, I guess you would say “Music opens the avenue of possibilities.”
I just bought John Coltrane’s Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album — a collection of his music recorded in the early 60s that was just recently released. Listening to this is unbelievable. Absolutely extraordinary and profound. Listening to this I know everything is possible.
After conversing and listening to Thomas Duroux, we’re sure anything involving him and wine is possible!
The following collection of Bordeaux is available in small quantities. Order while stock lasts. Write [email protected] or call 850-687-1370.
2017 Château Palmer. JS 97-98. $264.40. Available Spring 2020.
2016 Château Palmer. JS 99-100,WE-100. $299.99. 14 bottles available Spring 2019.
2015 Château Palmer. JS-100. $289.99. 18 bottles in stock now.
2014 Château Palmer. WE-97. $239.99. 6 bottles in stock now.
2009 Château Palmer. JS-98. $325.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
2006 Château Palmer. NM-94. $244.99. 6 bottles in stock now.
2005 Château Palmer. RP-98. $349.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
Alter Ego de Palmer
2016 Alter Ego de Palmer. JS 95-96. $65.99. 6 bottles available Spring 2019.
2015 Alter Ego de Palmer. JS-96. $74.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
2014 Alter Ego de Palmer. JS-93. $64.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
Other selections from the Margaux Appellation
2016 Château Brane-Cantenac. RP 96-98. $69.99. 30 bottles available Spring 2019.
2015 Château Brane-Cantenac. AG-96. $64.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
2012 Château Cantenac-Brown. DEC 95. $48.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
2015 Château Lascombes. WE-96. $74.99. 12 bottles in stock now.
2009 Château Lascombes. RP-94. $89.99. 20 bottles in stock now.
2017 Château d’Issan. Dec-94. $58.49. 36 bottles available Spring 2020.
2016 Château d’Issan. JS 96-97. $64.99. 36 bottles available Spring 2019.
2015 Château d’Issan. JS-96. $59.99. 8 bottles in stock now.
2015 Blason d’Issan. JS 93. $28.99. 6 bottles in stock now.
2015 Château Labégorce. WE 94-96. $32.99. 21 bottles in stock now.
2017 Château Rauzan-Ségla. RP 94-96. $72.49. 18 bottles available Spring 2020.
2016 Château Rauzan-Ségla. WE 96-99. $77.99. 6 bottles available Spring 2019.
1998 Château Margaux W&S 96. $379.99. 12 bottles in stock now, OWC.