Thomas Duroux became CEO of Château Palmer in 2004, at age 34. His two predecessors, Bertrand and Jean Bouteiller, held their positions for 42 and 49 years respectively. While Thomas may have thought his youth would work against him, history says it was an asset. A native of Bordeaux, he trained as an agronomist and as an oenologist. Before joining Château Palmer, he had ten years experience making wines in Bordeaux, Hungary, South Africa, California and Tuscany, and most recently at Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, where his trilingual abilities must have come to the fore (his father is French and his mother Italian). Entrusted with the management of Château Palmer, he has been reevaluating every practice in the vineyard and winery to further improve the quality.
Where were you born?
I had the good fortune to be born in Bordeaux.
What was your best memory growing up?
My Italian grandmother's annual visits and her preparing the best dishes I've ever had in my life!
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I was fascinated by biology and wanted to become a researcher.
Where/what did you study?
I studied biology and then agronomy at the Montpellier School of Agronomy. After I graduated, I decided to do further studies in viticulture and oenology, wine being one of my great passions in life.
Any formal wine training?
I studied at the Bordeaux Oenology University.
Who was your mentor?
I have had several. The personality who impressed me the most during my formative years was undoubtedly Mr. Robert Mondavi.
What are your views on agriculture: Sustainable? Organic? Biodynamic?
I am convinced that we have no other choice but to grow our vineyard organically. Biodynamics is another step which I consider very personal. As of next year, the entire [Palmer] vineyard will be grown biodynamically.
What was the best advice you ever received?
Never be satisfied with what you have done.
Outside wine, what is your passion?
I love music and jazz in particular. When I can combine wine and jazz, I am in heaven!
What was the last music you downloaded?
European Standards by Lionel Belmondo Trio. Lionel will soon play at Château Palmer to celebrate the new vintage . Since 2010, we have had jazzmen come to Château Palmer prior to the opening of the Primeurs tastings and perform their interpretations of the new vintage. The concert is followed by a friendly dinner with the musicians and the small audience. I love it.
What is the last movie you saw?
Land and Freedom by Ken Loach. Amazing!
Early to rise, late to bed; burn the candle at both ends?
Early in the vineyard, up late with a good jazz CD and a glass of wine at home whenever I'm not travelling.
How do you keep in shape?
I run twice a week.
Diet or eat everything?
I eat everything, and I enjoy eating everything.
What are you reading now?
Rediscovering Moby Dick.
Favorite place to vacation?
San Francisco and the Eolian Islands in Italy.
Favorite hotel in the world?
The Opposite House in Beijing, the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and the Gramercy Hotel in New York.
Favorite local hotel?
L'Avant Scène in Bordeaux.
Favorite restaurant in the world?
Flocons de Sel in Megève, Michel Bras in Laguiole and La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona [Italy].
Favorite restaurant locally?
Le Lion d'Or in Arcins [Médoc].
Favorite city to visit?
Air France, of course!
Favorite wine/vintage from your winery?
There are plenty but at the moment the 1966 is incredible!
Favorite wine/vintage, that is not yours?
There are too many, but if I must mention one, let's say 1995 Cathelin Hermitage by Jean Louis Chave, which I recently had.
The construction programme started in November 2010 and completed in April 2013, including the renovation of our small "village," the new harvest hall and chais, as well as the beautiful landscaping that adds modernity and space to the surroundings of the Château.
Keith Jarrett will never play at Château Palmer.
If you can choose your perfect last supper before leaving this world, what would it be, who would it be with and what would you drink with it?
It would be a dinner at La Pineta in Italy with my wife and my daughters on the beach, with a wonderful piece of Galinella [fabulous fish from the Mediterranean] and a bottle of Château Palmer Blanc.