"Exuberant" Chateau Palmer 2012 just re-released - Ten Years On

Photo: Olivier Metzger.
Krister Bengtsson
Published 16-October-2022
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Every fourth Thursday of September, Chateau Palmer releases the ten years old vintage from the property's cellars. The current release, 2012, is an unusual one. Star Wine List's founder Krister Bengtsson talked to Palmer's winemaker/CEO Thomas Duroux.

Thomas Duroux: "2012 was a vintage of contrasts. The Merlots was very ripe, sunny and exuberant. The Cabernets was fresh and precise, very 'bordelais'. It was almost like having two vintages at the same time in the cellar, with two different expressions. The big question was how they would match together."

Krister Bengtsson: "Tasting the 2012 Chateau Palmer, I can answer that question: it went super well. The wine has the deepest red colour I have probably seen in any Left Bank Bordeaux, all the way to the rim. The nose has exuberant merlot jumping out of the glass but on the palate it also has a restrained, very young core with layers of tannins and a persistent freshness. It feels so young I had to check the vintage on the bottle to see that I had gotten the right one!"

Thomas Duroux. Photo: Olivier Metzger.

Duroux: "Yes, the wine looks very young but it is very open at the same time. And I must say it has always been like that with the 2012. It is not the case for every Palmer vintage. And about the colour, I think it has to do with the small yields, only 28 hl/ha that year, and from old vines. It is powerful and deep."

50% of Chateau Palmer held back for ten years

Like almost all Grand Crus in Bordeaux, Chateau Palmer used to sell most of its production as en primeur to the negociants the year after harvest. However, in 2010, Chateau Palmer began holding back up to 50% of its production to be released at a later date. In 2020 they decided to re-release the 2010 and start a new tradition: every September the chateau will release the ten years old wine, matured in bottle.

Chateau Palmer is a unique Left Bank Bordeaux estate in that it has half its vineyards planted with Merlot, when the local blend is usually with a majority of Cabernet Sauvignon. Combined with the soil and place, it creates a very special flavour profile.

Thomas Duroux and his team have also been one of the pioneers working with sustainability and biodynamics at the estate - in particular among the elite chateaux of the region. Palmer has a farm that produces its own fruit and vegetables, it employs cows to produce manure and sheep to mow the cover crop.

Bengtsson: "This year, 2022, has seen heatwave after heatwave in Bordeaux. With an even more extreme weather, how are the vines coping and how can you manage them?"

Duroux: "There are things that we are doing: Having a better organic content in the soil with lots of microbiological life; keeping old vines longer, managing leaf exposure, etc. There are a lot of small things. But honestly if temperatures keep going up and up, I think viticulture will be different and wines will be different."

Chateau Palmer sheep. Photo: Olivier Metzger.

Bengtsson: "You are pioneers among the top chateaux when it comes to organic and biodynamic viticulture. Do you see that more estates in Bordeaux are following these practices nowadays?"

Duroux: "Yes there are a lot of properties that are moving towards this kind of viticulture. I think today 20% of all of Bordeaux is organic. Half, or two thirds, of the classified chateaux are either certified organic or in the process to be so. And at least 95% are experimenting. It's just a question of time and speed, it's a big move, not only in Bordeaux but everywhere."

What matters for us is to express this place

Bengtsson: "Where are you taking your holistic and sustainability work next?"

Duroux: "You have seen it here, we really try to work on the farm concept and to be holistic. The vineyards, the biodiversity, the trees, the animals but also the vegetables and gardening. We are also refurbishing our village to have like a 'cantine vigneronne' in the middle, a restaurant for the people working at the winery. And we would like to open the doors and receive people."

Photo: Olivier Metzger.

Bengtsson: "Is there an opposition or contradiction in being a sustainable farm and winery and also being, in effect, a top-level luxury Bordeaux producer?"

Duroux: "I think the most important point and what matters for us is to express this place. This place is unique, it has a very long history and the wines produced here are unique. There is a worldwide demand and as a result the prices are high... but you know we don't feel like 'luxury' producers. We feel like very privileged people who are able to work with our passion in a very unique place. That's it."

Duroux: "You know, I am a wine lover. I drink wine from a lot of different places and there are wines that have a special place. Not because they are luxury items or that they are difficult to find, but because they represent something very strongly. They have a place, a history, the women and men behind them, emotions that we had sometimes. And those wines can be cheap or expensive, it does not change anything. They have personalities. That is where we want to be, in the group of wines with a strong and unique personality."

Find the re-released 2012 Palmer from your favorite wine merchants.

And as a Star Wine List Premium member, check out which restaurants list Chateau Palmer here.

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