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From Polo to Palmer- Highlighting A Vine Affair’s Newest Champagne Partner, Champagne Palmer & Co.

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

This past Polo Season, A Vine Affair hosted an exclusive, high-end Champagne and Caviar Event at the Sarasota Polo Club. We were honored to pour several champagnes from Champagne Palmer & Co, while our clients sat back and enjoyed the match. Paired alongside Haute Caviar, we featured their Brut Réserve, Blanc de Blancs, Rosé Solera, and their 2015 Grands Terroirs.

pictures from our Polo Event on April 2nd, 2023

I have been acquainted with Champagne Palmer just briefly, years ago, when I found a bottle in a wine shop, and have heard a lot about them from different publications that I read, more so in Europe and Scandinavia, so having the opportunity to try, and share, their wines, was such a pleasure.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks later, and I had the rare opportunity to visit them in Reims. And for me, this is really where I have fallen in love with this brand!

The History of Champagne Palmer

Champagne Palmer is a cooperative that was established in 1947, starting with 7 families of growers who, at the time, were well established, located in premier and grand cru villages in the Montagne de Reims. They were already producing their own wines and exporting, but wanted to create a brand that showcased a blend with all of their terroirs. This makes sense, because the foundation of Palmer is amazing terroir, carefully selected throughout the region.

Many cooperatives in the Champagne Region were created after wars, to be able to share the cost of production and facilities. But with Palmer, all the growers had their own press centers, etc, and this was more about a collective vision to create a great champagne from great terroirs.

At the time, their most interesting export market was the United Kingdom, since It was the first to recover after WW2. So they decided to brand themselves with the English name, Palmer, easy to remember, and also to separate from the German names of the Negotiants.

Step by step, they started to expand in the UK, and then in Northern Europe. As they grew, they decided to move the brand to Reims in 1959, where they acquired part of 32 kilometers of cellars shared by Roederer, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, and Taittinger.

In the 1960s, they opened the cooperative to new growers for expansion. But this was a huge commitment to become a part of Palmer, because it was a 20 year contract, requiring the growers to provide 100% of their production, they have to be in premier and grand cru, and have to own your own press center.

In the 1990’s they purchased all the facilities of Heidsieck Monopole, and now have the capacity to store 10,000,000 bottles. At the end of the 90’s, they were producing 300,000 bottles. Today, Palmer consists of 350 growers, 420 hectares, but 50% of production is used for Palmer, and 50% of clear wines are sold to the Negotiants. In 2023, their production is 1,000,000 bottles, with the capacity to do 3,000,000 bottles.

pictures from my visit at Champagne Palmer on April 17th, 2023

Unique Terroir, Unique Craftsmanship

I want to firstly say, before we get too far into the technical details of Palmer (because it is a bit of a rabbit hole), their wines are simply delicious! For those who know nothing about Champagne, you can open any of their cuvées and thoroughly enjoy it without needing to overthink. They are approachable, yet thoughtful, fresh and complex, and leave you wanting another sip.

But.. for the intellectual drinker, Palmer will leave your palate satisfied, and your mind challenged. When walking through the cellars, and exploring their portfolio, you begin to realize that what you are tasting in the glass, has many complex layers, developed by interesting techniques, with almost a playfulness from the chef de cave. And to feed my geeky brain even more, in the near future, their barcode on the back label will give very detailed information of the cuvée including base vintages, cépage, reserve wine percentages and types, crus, dosage, etc.

As mentioned before, Palmer began with growers who owned plots in premier and grand cru villages throughout the Montagne de Reims, which is about 50% of their holdings today, with the carefully selected additions of vines in the Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Sezanne and the Côte des Bar.

Their holdings are unique, due to their plot locations, aspects, and terroirs, and this is key to their fresh and elegant style. They also requires their wines to stay on the lees for an extended amount of time (3 years for non-vintage, 5-8 years for vintage). In the Montagne de Reims, they are located between Rilly-la-Montagne and Trépail, with north, east and south-east facing plots. So here, around 50% Meunier and 50% Pinot Noir. In Rilly, Chigny-les-Roses, all premier cru, Mailly, Verzenay, and Verzy, with GC Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, which is north-east facing, in Villers-Marmery. In these particular plots, the vines have deep roots in chalk bringing salinity and saltiness in the Blanc de Blancs. They have 80 hectares near Barbonne in Côte des Sezanne- with a touch of chardonnay that brings ripeness, a silky texture, and exotic fruits. And finally, a touch of Pinot Noir from the Côte des Bar.

Beyond their terroir, they hold a secret key to their style, their Reserve Wines. Their NV Brut Réserve contains up to 40% reserve wines, not only previous harvests, but blended years, at least four or five former versions of Brut Réserve, similar to perpetual reserve.

In addition to this, they have three different perpetual reserve solera systems, with one that is more than 40 years old.

Red Wine Solera

For their Soléra Rosé, they use Pinot Noir from the village of Les Riceys, in the Côte des Bar, vilified in 12 year old Burgundy barrels. They stop fermentation quite soon, so they don’t extract tannins, but just the fruit expression, specifically the black fruits this area tends to give. They spend 10 months in the Burgundy barrels, then go into the stainless steel vats, which are refreshed with the wine from that year, and for the last 40+ years.

Chardonnay Solera

35+ year old Solera of Chardonnay from Trépail, is used for liqueur de dosage, and for Amazon cuvée. It is stored in oak to add a touch of spice, and the elements of the old wines and young wines bring complexity.

Pinot Noir Solera

This is a 12 year Solera of Pinot Noir from Mailly and Verzenay Grand Cru and used for their Blanc de Noirs.

When walking the cellars of Palmer, you will find a significant amount of magnums, as they believe it is the best format to elaborate, store and enjoy champagne, as we all can agree. In addition to these, you can also find larger format bottles, where they do the second fermentation inside the bottle, not transferring from the smaller formats. This is extremely unique in the region as the only other house that does this is Drappier. They only produce larger formats in years that are generous in quality and quantity, and they are always vintage champagnes. All magnums and larger formats can be disgorged on demand, for example, I saw some lovely 1985 (my birth year) magnums undisgorged.

The Tasting

Brut Reserve- 2017 base, disgorged October 2022, 6gr dosage, 57% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir, 21% Meunier, with 40% reserve wines (currently on the market). Something to note, that Palmer's dosage changes based on their blind tastings when creating the cuvées, so although I mention it throughout my tasting notes, these are the dosages for these particular iterations, and not a set dosage. Also, with all of their cuvées, they use stainless steel and full malolactic fermentation.

Fun Fact: Only 65% of their overall bottle sales are their Brut Réserve. This is very unusual in Champagne compared to others. For example, Veuve Clicquot's NV Brut is over 90% of their total bottle sales. My host, Jerome, explained that this is due to their strategic approach to the market, targeting restaurants who find their entire portfolio interesting, and love to work with their rosé and blanc de blancs, as well as their brut réserve.

Extra Brut- Basically the same wine as the brut with 2 more years on the lees and less dosage, 3.4 gr. For this one, I got more brioche with a lovely length. The extra time on lees gave this more roundness, savoriness, and complexity. Unfortunately, this one is not yet in the US, but we hope to find it soon!

Blanc de Blancs- 2017, disgorged Feb 2022 with 6.9gr dosage.

The Chardonnay in this cuvée is made up of 85% from Villers-Marmery and Trépail with the rest coming from Bethon in the Cote des Sezanne. This is such a unique BdB with citrus, creaminess, saltiness, and a bit fresh, exotic fruits, interesting and beautiful. You will not find this on the label, as it is not declared, but it is actually a vintage champagne. This is because the cellar master does not want to commit to this being a vintage champagne, in case in the future, he may want to add reserve wines.

Blanc de Noirs- (not yet in the US) 2018 base, 38% Meunier, 62% Pinot Noir coming from the Montagne de Reims, Côte des Bar and Vallée de la Marne, with 26% reserves, disgorged February 2022, 6gr dosage. This one is very fruity, fresh and elegant, not too much Verzenay and Mailly in this, but they are more of a backbone for the cuvée. Rich yellow fruits, pear, apricot, creating a very versatile wine, that could be paired with everything from fried food to asian food. There is just a touch of 4% perpetual reserve acting as the salt and pepper at the end.

Grands Terroirs 2015- Until 2012, their vintage wine was just labeled, 'vintage'. In 2012, it was rebranded, 'Grands Terroirs', which is the legal name of the Cooperative. This vintage champagne is a historical nod to its foundation, as it contains the 7 crus of the 7 founders in the Montagne de Reims, with chardonnay coming from Trépail and Villers-Marmery, Pinot Noir and a touch of Meunier from Ludes, Rilly-la-Montagne, Chigney-les-Roses, Verzenay, and Mailly. It is the same recipe as 1947, but with the expression of the vintage.

Grands Terroirs 2015 en Magnum- Nothing beats a magnum, and half magnum comparison! The magnum we tried was actually opened 2 days ago, and it still had that magnum effect on it. It was full-bodied, lots of freshness, bright and more lifted, and really created a different element to the vintage.

Rosé Solera- 2017 base, disgorged June 2022, with 6.9 gr dosage. A cépage of 52% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 19% Meunier, with 39% reserve wines, and 9% red wine solera, This one is so easy to drink, fresh, fruity, light, but the added spice brings a level of versatility with food pairing. I have poured this twice now for clients, and both times, I ran out quickly!

Amazone- This cuvée, originally created by chef de cave, Michel Davesne, in 1976, is very limited production, and a very fun one to wrap your head around. The goal is to create a cuvée that has beautiful structure, elegance, and freshness. Every year after each harvest, the cellar master tastes every single vat of Palmer. If he finds a vat with very good potential but a little closed, he will put a cross on the vat. He will wait, and come back to that particular vat every 5 years, and when ready, will make a blend from these selected vats. The particular iteration we tried was a blend of reserve wines from 2010, 2012, 2009, with 18% solera of Chardonnay (same solera that goes into the dosage), 51% chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir. The wine stays 10 years on the lees before the first release. Only 20,000 bottles are produced for each Amazone, made every 5 years. The 20,000 are released 5,000 at a time, disgorged each year. Meaning, you can get a bottle of the same Amazone, with 10 years aging on lees, or 13 years on lees, and you will know based on the barcode on the back of the bottle.

Also unique to this cuvée is the bottle shape. They wanted to create a traditional old style bottle, but because it resembled other famous bottles, they pressed the bottle to create an oval shape. So when you see the bottle in person, it is slightly squished, and actually easier to hold than a normal bottle.

Wow! So much to share with you guys! Thank you, François for your time and information, and truly sharing the world of Palmer with me! What an honor and pleasure it was to spend the morning with you!

My most recent encounter with Palmer

High on my visit to the house, I instantly wanted to share these champagnes again, and found the perfect opportunity to do so with BSWANKY's launch of their brand new atelier.

Again, I shared the Brut Réserve, Blanc de Blancs, Rosé Solera and Grands Terroirs 2015, but this time, with a whole new level of knowledge AND appreciation for the brand. The champagnes were enjoyed thoroughly during the event, and I believe were the perfect pairing with BSWANKY's foundational pillars of artistry, craftsmanship, uniqueness, and elegance. Thank you Champagne Palmer for this beautiful partnership. I can't wait to share your champagnes again.

pictures from BSWANKY's event on June 7th, 2023

Where to get Champagne Palmer

Scan the QR Code below to get bottles sent directly to your home!

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