At Château Palmer, director Thomas Duroux remains just as committed to organic vinegrowing as ever, putting him at the vanguard of this still nascent movement in Bordeaux. For background on this Margaux estate, reference my notes from last year's en primeur visit.
"We are way behind on this in Bordeaux, and for no good reason," said Duroux of both organic and biodynamic farming. "We have the knowledge, the universities and research to help us and the money to invest. Is there risk? Of course. But this is the way we need to go. For the health of the vineyard and the health of the people who work in it. It's just that simple."
2014 marks the first vintage at Palmer made from fully biodynamically farmed fruit (covering all 136 acres of vines), a transition that Duroux began in 2008.
"We knew it couldn't be done in just 5 seconds. The vineyard needed to be rebalanced, lowering the vigor and helping the vineyard learn to protect itself with only modest sulphur and copper treatments and nothing else. But now we are fully biodynamic, and that was the first phase," said Duroux. "The second phase is to find the right biodynamic farming for us, which I think will take 10 years. It's not a recipe, it's a process of learning. Not to relearn the vineyard, but to understand how we can integrate everything. We are treating the estate as en entire ecosystem and trying to limit what we bring in from the outside to a minimum—compost, fertilizer and so on. We feel it's getting better and better, but we also know there is a big part of this that we don't fully understand yet."
2014 also marks the first vintage that was vinified completely without sulphur, with the first addition done only after the malolactic fermentation, instead of with the fruit in the crusher, as is the norm.
The 2014 Château Palmer Margaux Alter Ego is a 52/35/13 blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot that bursts with violet, plum and raspberry fruit lined with silky tannins and backed by a tantalizing iron hint. It has a lovely brisk energy and shows gorgeous purity. It's particularly marked by the Petit Verdot, which delivers telltale violet and cassis bush aromas.
"Petit Verdot is only 6 or 7 percent of the vineyards, so that's a high percentage in the wine for us," said Duroux. "But we have a block on sandy gravel that is very aromatic, and since '11 we have used it for Alter Ego. We don't extract it for structure, but we really love the aromas."
The 2014 Château Palmer Margaux is much less expressive aromatically than the second wine, with a reserved profile of crushed red and black currant fruit and lightly singed alder. The 49/45/6 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot is very coiled though, with energetic raspberry and plum coulis flavors, a lilting violet edge and a long, iron-fueled finish. There's a very refined backdrop of tobacco and singed juniper and the finish is long and suave. Not surprisingly, as the Alter Ego seems to settle down in the glass after its initial aromatic explosion, the grand vin seems to unwind steadily and slowly.
"2014 was a good ripening process but a late ripening process, so the grapes were very aromatic and with a lot of tannins. And what I really like is the type of tannins we have. It's a precise, sophisticated tannin," said Duroux.
Château Palmer director Thomas Duroux has purchased a few new mowers for the vineyards.
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