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In July 2004, Thomas Duroux became managing director of Chateau Palmer. At his final, third interview, he was asked to blind taste five wines.

Story and Photo By Ch'ng Poh Tiong

When Thomas DUROUX turned up for his first interview at Chateau Palmer (the Margaux Third Growth was looking for a new Managing Director), he was in a pair of jeans.

"I thought, being so young, that there was no chance they were going to consider me."

Unbeknown to Duroux then, three out of 10 people who were asked to name a candidate for the position had specifically mentioned him.

When Bertrand BOUTEILLER retired as head of Chateau Palmer after forty two years at the helm (1962 to 2004), having first succeeded his father Jean BOUTEILLER (who served from 1913 to 1962), the shareholders of the estate turned to a headhunting firm to find someone who 'have an intimate understanding of Bordeaux, had worked abroad and could bring a new perspective to the chateau'.

At the time, Thomas Duroux was winemaker at Tuscany's famed Tenuta dell'Ornellaia. The new post would have meant the young man moving from a purely technical role of winemaker to the much larger position of running a grand chateau. Duroux is originally from Bordeaux. His father is French but his mother is Italian. Fluent in both languages, there's an even lesser known fact about how Duroux finally clinched the job at Chateau Palmer.

At the third and final interview in front of the entire board of directors of the chateau, Thomas Duroux had to undergo a blind tasting.

"There were five wines. They said 'Two are from the Right Bank and another two from the Left Bank. They also said that there were two grand vins and two second wines and that they were from the same two properties. The fifth wine was put in to add confusion to the mix."

The wines that Duroux had to taste were also all of the same vintage. They were:

  • Chateau Angelus
  • Carillon de Angelus
  • Chateau Leoville Las Cases
  • Clos du Margaux
  • Chateau Haut-Bailly

"I did well except I mixed up Carillon de Angelus and Haut-Bailly. I even guessed the vintage right although that was not a requirement at the blind tasting. I said that it was either 1999 or 1998 but I thought that it was 1998."

In July 2004, Thomas Duroux finally became managing director of Chateau Palmer. Since that time, he has produced some very impressive wines at an estate he originally thought he was too young to manage when he turned up for his first interview back in December 2003.

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013