Precision genius. Xavier Berdin and the Palmer soleras

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Discreetly, serenely, surely, Palmer & Co has been wowing us, at least since the repeated tastings of the vintage (and magnum) marvels that the house still has in its cellars, along with the legendary 1978 or 1985. Palmer never stopped at this glorious period and has continued, for a long time under the direction of the humanist Jean-Claude Colson, to build the history of a small model cooperative, specialising in the terroirs of the Montagne de Reims, with some welcome contributions from the Sézannais, Côte des Bar and Vallée de la Marne. Pinot Noir is the preferred grape here, even if Palmer’s style has always avoided accentuating the characteristics of any one grape variety or terroir. There is only one key word: blending. Since Dom Pérignon, this founding concept of Champagne wine has found a permanent and specific translation here. Xavier Berdin, a native of Champagne, arrived here in 2003 following a passionate exchange with Colson. Succeeding him as winemaker, he shares the idea that his mission is “to embellish and incense the grapes”. In addition to the blending of terroirs (essential, since the house can draw on 450 hectares of vines, 200 of which are premiers and grands crus) and reserve vintages, Palmer has always been very keen to develop the principle of solera, these perpetual reserves which, for the winemaker, constitute “an extraordinary library of flavours where the old wine educates the young, and the young wine nourishes the old”. There are three soleras: one in red, used for rosé, one in Chardonnay to make very fine, complex liqueurs, and the last and main one in Pinot Noir to blend in the Blanc de Noirs and the Cuvée Amazone. “Style is man”: the meticulous work of Berdin and the Palmer house gives a delicious and precise definition to Buffon’s famous sentence.

Our geniuses, our top honours The following men and women have given meaning to the concerns and challenges facing the world of wine. Bringing to life terroirs that illustrate the diversity of fine viticulture, devising tools to assess the sustainability of soils, imagining creation, thinking about quality, anticipating oenology, transforming know-how into a universal style, making restaurants the allies of wines, passing on their passion: each of them is a “genius of the year”.

📷 Fabrice Leseigneur

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