Spirits in the wine world of Bordeaux are ripe with expectation on the back of what’s been a highly successful 2015. No more so than in Margaux, the southernmost of the four famous Médoc communes, and two of its most aristocratic inhabitants, Château Palmer and Château Margaux, which produced more successful crops than ever.
“This is really a fantastic vintage, we know there is high demand, I would put it in the first league with 2005 because we are in the Margaux area; as a result, we have produced one of the very best Palmer,” says Thomas Duroux, Château Palmer chief executive.
Doubly stirring is a one-off event of extreme oenophilic excitation being conducted by Sotheby’s auction house in Hong Kong on June 4, a must-go for experts and amateurs alike, which features the first-ever wine auction entirely dedicated to 202-year-old Château Palmer. The sale comprises more than 220 lots spanning 87 years and is estimated at US$1 million.
Serena Sutcliffe, Master of Wine and Honorary Chairman of Sotheby’s Wine is giddy at the prospect: “We are thrilled to bring to auction one of the Médoc’s most illustrious châteaux, a historic panorama of Palmer. The wine comes in an array of vintages and formats, a totally unprecedented collection that shows Château Palmer at the pinnacle of its beauty.”
More aficionado still, the event sees the auction debut of a 225-litre barrel of Château Palmer 2015 en primeur – wine before its been bottled and released onto the market. Valued at US$90,000, that equates to 25 cases or 300 standard bottles of wine. Most appealingly, it offers the buyer an opportunity to choose any mix of different bottle sizes, from formats as small as half bottles to as large as a Melchior (18 litres) – a portfolio to outshine any wine merchant. The buyer can also have their name printed on the back label of the bottle. The lot also comes with a private tour of the vineyard and winery followed by a dinner at the château.
“I think personalising the label for those who buy it could be interesting for the younger generation. That’s 300 unique bottles of wine right there. You could imagine your child, if you had a child born in 2015, what a great christening present that would be,” says Duroux. Or for sons or daughters, could there be any more persuasive and uplifting Father’s Day offering (see Mad About Dad, p.64). The fact that 2015 is a year of such exceptional quality only enhances the barrel’s desirability.
Anyone who buys into Château Palmer’s legendary terroir is also buying into their newly biodynamic agriculture. Château Palmer switched in 2008 and achieved full biodynamic certification in October 2013. As a result, 2015 is the second vintage to have been biodynamically farmed. “A lot of estates are experimenting with organic and biodynamic and you’ll see more go that way. It’s just the trend,” says Duroux. “We were lucky. We had the opportunity to convert quicker than others in the region.”
Duroux is also selling a 1928 at the auction. How will that taste? “Wines from this vintage were so concentrated and so powerful that they would take 30-plus years to open themselves. I tasted a ’28 six months ago and would consider it an absolute reference for the estate. The tannins are incredibly delicate and precise.”
For a man who presides over almost a century of the finest Bordeaux has to offer, what’s Duroux’s Château Palmer of choice? “If I had to choose one from the Sotheby’s sale, I would buy the 1961 double magnum. It’s a genuine vintage, like a ’28 or ’45, but there are only three at the château and we decided to put this one at auction. There are only three in the world.”
Tell Duroux that many an amateur may not know the provenance of Château Palmer, which sells through 17th century British wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd in Hong Kong, and his response is vintage. “I met with a wine collector last week, a Bordelais, and I asked him to describe Château Palmer,” Duroux says. “The collector told me: ‘Monsieur Duroux, Château Palmer is my best kept secret.’”