Chateau Palmer leads the charge with new bio-dynamic wine approach

Thomas Duroux, CEO of leading Margaux vineyard Chateau Palmer, kicked off his Asian tour with a visit to Hong Kong. We had the opportunity to dine with him, try some spectacular vintages and also discuss his groundbreaking approach to winemaking.

CEO Thomas Duroux breathes new life into Chateau Palmer
Chateau Palmer CEO Thomas Duroux

If the name ‘Chateau Palmer’ doesn’t sound familiar, it’s understandable. Although well-established and supremely respected in European circles (it’s considered the best Margaux appellation after Chateau Margaux), the producer is a relatively new name among Asian wine enthusiasts. But that’s changing steadily, thanks in no small part to Duroux’s innovative new bio-dynamic wines.

Since 2008 and under Duroux’s guidance, the property has stopped using any agrochemicals and artificial fertilisers. Instead, it has gone old-school, planting fruit trees and flowers and even allowing sheep to graze between the vines in an attempt to achieve complete harmony with the land. Chateau Palmer was even certified as 100% biodynamic last year.

New bio-dynamic wines from Chateau Palmer a big hit

When asked what drove the change, Duroux responded, “Ten years ago, I was convinced that our farming was not sustainable, that we had to find a different option. All these chemicals and sterile farming conditions were killing the soil.” He added, “We chose to experiment drawing from what pre-World War II producers used to do [before the age of mass-produced wine]. Slowly but surely, we’ve built our own bio-dynamic style.”

While it may sound a bit flowery, the results speak for themselves. Prices of Chateau Palmer wines have sky-rocketed in the last few years, shooting up over 10% between 2015 and 2016 alone.

Chateau Palmer is named after British soldier Charles Palmer who bought the property in 1814
Chateau Palmer is named after British soldier Charles Palmer, who bought the property in 1814

That’s not to say that older vintages from this avant garde winemaker should be written off. Quite the opposite, in fact. For instance, two bottles of Chateau Palmer 1945 are set to be sold today by American wine auctioneer Acker Merrall & Condit for an estimated HK$48,000-64,000.

Chateau Palmer is the perfect example of the direction that many established French winemakers are going (including Burgundy legend Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Medoc favourite Pontet Canet). If its latest 2015 vintages are anything to go by, they’re headed the right way.

Text: Tenzing Thondup
Images: Chateau Palmer