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Château d’Yquem opens its doors for private visits / With its exceptional terroir, Château d’Yquem recounts the story of unique savoir-faire passed on from one generation to the next since 1593. Now, for the first time the estate is opening its doors, offering a chance to discover its rich history during intimate private visits.

 

A visit to Château d’Yquem is a discovery of an epic saga that has lasted more than 400 years, rich in events and colorful personalities. The guided tour immerses visitors in the exceptional art and craftsmanship behind the time-honored savoir-faire that has earned the estate such renown. The highlight of the experience is a tasting of a Château d’Yquem vintage, as well as of “Y” the estate’s exceptional dry white wine.

 

Practical information:

Private tours of the estate for between one and 12 persons. 60 euros per person. There are three tours daily from Monday through Sunday.
Reservations at http://reservation.yquem.

 

 

 

Château d’Yquem Reigns Supreme Over White Wines at Auction  

In July 2011, a bottle of 1811 Château d’Yquem became the world’s most valuable bottle of white wine when it was sold by London fine and rare wine specialists The Antique Wine Company for £75,000 ($117,000), beating the previous record of $100,000 for a bottle of 1787 Château d’Yquem, which it also sold. The buyer was French wine connoisseur and sommelier Christian Vanneque who acquired the bottle for his restaurant SIP Sunset Grill in Bali, Indonesia.

World record tipple: The bottle set a new Guinness World Record for the world's most valuable bottle of white wine, bought for £75,000

Though the main focus at wine auctions of younger collectors and new buyers from Asia and Latin America has been red wines, where there has been greater price volatility, both up and down, the auction market for Château d’Yquem has been relatively consistent over the last few years, says Jamie Ritchie, CEO of Sotheby’s Wine Asia and Americas, “which illustrates steady demand from wine drinkers.”

According to Ritchie, the appeal of Château d’Yquem is its incredible depth, complexity, and length, as well as its perfect combination of honeyed fruit, acidity, and sweetness. “The collectible nature is a combination of its longevity (it can easily age for 100 years, due to the balance of fruit, acidity, alcohol, and sugar) along with the fact that it is in a category of one — it is the only Sauternes classified as Premier Grand Cru in 1855, so it stands alone, without rivals,” he explains. One factor that has focused the spotlight on older vintages is an increase in the release price of new vintages that was instituted by the new owners of the Château d’Yquem estate, LVMH.

 

John Kapon, CEO of the New York-based wine retailer and auctioneer Acker Merrall & Condit, says that savvy connoisseurs are turning more to pre-1990 vintages, where they can find some maturity, often at a better price than current releases, which Kapon says “aren’t as drinkable anyway.”

 

Richard Harvey M.W., Global Head of Wine at Bonhams, suggests that anyone wanting to add a bottle of Château d’Yquem to their collection should first research the best vintages (1921, 1929, 1937, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1955, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 2001), which he says “do not always correspond to those of red Bordeaux.” The next step, he says, is to look for bottles of these vintages which are frequently sold at auction. “Also some other vintages are remarkably good but sometimes under-rated: 1943, 1953, 1962, 1975, 1976, 1986, 1995, 1996, and 1997,” says Harvey. “However, avoid vintages like 1963, 1965, and 1968 when no Yquem should have been made,” he adds.

 

The CEO of Chicago-based Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., Paul Hart, advices wine connoisseurs who are in the market for a bottle of Château d’Yquem to ensure that the company from which the wine is purchased is diligent about checking for provenance and condition. “You wouldn’t want to purchase a bottle of d’Yquem only to discover that the cork is soft, the ullage is uncharacteristically low, or the bottle is counterfeit,” says Hart.

With regards to the bottle of 1811 Château d’Yquem bought by Vanneque, it remains on show at the SIP Wine Bar, where it is showcased in a temperature and hygrometrically-controlled bullet-proof glass box. Vanneque says that he will open the bottle in August 2017 at La Tour d’Argent in Paris during a dinner with family and friends. It will mark the 50th anniversary of the start of his career as a sommelier at La Tour d’Argent.

When Vanneque opens that bottle, he may like to consider this bit of advice from Simon Tam, Christie’s Head of Wine in China, who says: “To own a bottle of this liquid gold is certainly life’s little sweetener. Do take your time to sip and savor all that the wine has to offer. A young d’Yquem is best paired with a ripe peach or nectarine while a matured d’Yquem is best with roasted nuts.”

by Nicholas Forrest, This article originally appeared in Blouin Lifestyle, October 2014

 

 

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History

As the morning September sun rises, a cloud of fog drifts across the cold waters of the Ciron. It sweeps swiftly over the vineyards and settles on the slopes. As the rays touch the hills, its warmth cuts a swathe through the veil and the outlines of pickers become discernable between the vines. The experienced walk with a stoop and gather the most raisined, mould-covered grapes covered, often one at a time. The first pick of the Château d’Yquem 1896 vintage has begun. 

 

The harvest of the 1896 vintage started at the order of Amade de Lur-Saluces on September 21, when the sun was still warm, and continued for the next five days. The careful first pick produced a dozen barrels of very concentrated wine. After two rainy days, the second pick commenced. The good weather lasted for only a day, but the result was an excellent 15 barrels. The pickers returned to the grapes affected by noble rot for a third time one week later, when the changing weather gave warning of approaching rain. The knowledge of what was to come increased the speed of the pickers, and the harvest rose to 24 barrels a day. Unrelenting rain arrived three days later and put an end to the picking for a week, allowing the workers a well-deserved rest. The fourth pick was disturbed by scattered showers, but the result was still 200 barrels in four days, considered an excellent achievement. On the other hand, alcohol content dropped to 14 degrees. The fifth and last pick yielded another 300 barrels in seven days in extremely poor conditions; the potential alcohol content dropped under ten degrees and this batch could not be used for the main wine. All in all, 826 barrels (22 hl/ha) were harvested in varying weather conditions, but only the first quarter met Yquem’s strict requirements.

 

Château d'Yquem has undeniably been producing the greatest sweet wines in the world over the last few centuries. I am not going to sing its praises here, as that has been done often enough. What I want to do instead is to write about the art of drinking this golden nectar. There are three major mistakes to avoid if you want to get the maximum enjoyment out of Yquem, namely: too late, too young and with desserts.

 

If you plan to drink mature Yquem, the best time is at the start of the dinner. Yquem is too often served as a "highlight" at the end of a meal. Your ability to really enjoy a wine as complex as Yquem is not at its peak at around midnight having drunk a number of glasses of champagne, a couple of whites and a few more glasses of red wines.

This leads me to the second mistake ­– not only is it served late but also mostly accompanied with a sweet dessert. Yquem works very well with a number of  dishes – lightly fried fois gras is a heavenly classic – but rarely with desserts. If you have to serve Yquem, or any other Sauternes for that matter, with dessert, try using one that is not too sweet. 

 

Château d’Yquem’s first harvest took place three hundred years earlier, in 1593, when Jacques de Sauvage purchased the estate from the crown. When Francoise de Sauvage and Louis-Amede de Lur-Saluces, King Louis XV’s godson, married in 1785, Yquem became part of the property of the historic and traditional Lur-Saluces family, while at the same time, the vineyard received approval and protection from the French royal family. Today, the vineyard comprises 457 acres, which is approximately the same as two hundred years ago.

 

The man who ran the winery for more than thirty years, Alexandre de Lur-Saluces, now retired, says that his winemaking philosophy goes back centuries: “The most important thing is to respect nature, just the way my grandfather and his predecessors did hundreds of years ago. We cannot produce great wines without the help of Mother Nature. Every harvest is, in a way, an individual adventure with its individual surprises. We wish to extend this thinking in order to respect the people who love the wine that comes from our vineyards, and the people who work on the fields. Our wines will stay the same in the future as they were a century ago. The tools have changed, but not our way of making wine.”

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Vineyards

When the Bordeaux region wines were classified in 1855, only Château d’Yquem received a classification of its own – Premier Grand Cru Classé – which was higher than anybody else. Even though the estate could use that classification on its labels, it does not. Today, the estate produces the best wine in its area, and in the opinion of some experts the best in Bordeaux. Its location on the highest spot in Sauternes has created a unique micro-climate that varies greatly from year to year. This requires an extremely careful and precise winemaking process, and during poor years, the estate does not produce anything at all: “The climatic conditions during the growth period, and the harvest period in particular, when we wait for noble rot to affect the grapes, give our wines their unique personality. This natural process is entirely dependent on weather. We can only decide when and how to harvest,” said Alexandre de Lur-Saluces.

 

 In difficult years, harvesting may take between eight and ten weeks. The grapes are still harvested by hand only when they are completely covered by noble rot, not before. Often, as many as ten picks are needed during one harvest; if the grapes are not perfectly ripe, they are left unpicked. Even after winemaking and barrel maturation the wine may be rejected if it does not develop as expected. This happened, for example, in 1978 and 1979, when more than half of the wine was rejected, and occasionally the entire vintage is eliminated: nine vintages of Yquem are completely absent from the 20th century: 1910, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1974, and 1992.

 

“Most people think that taking care of a world-famous estate like Château d’Yquem does not require any effort. Just like other companies, changing world markets affect us too, not to speak of the weather. The year 1974 was one of the most difficult in my time. That depressing year we were not able to produce a single bottle of Yquem and managed to sell only four cases of our other vintages,” Alexandre de Lur-Saluces reminisced.

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Winemaking

Harvest per hectare is exceptionally small, at just nine hectolitres, which means that the grapes of one vine only yield a single glass of wine. When the time comes to harvest, the Yquem staff swells by some 140 additional people, divided into four teams. They pick over 100 hectares of grapes, selecting only ones that have reached an ideal, botrytised condition. Since the Botrytis Cinerea affects each bunch of grapes in a different way, all the fruit must be harvested in separate waves of picking. On average, the harvest will take five to six of these waves over six weeks. Despite the large cultivation area, the estate’s average annual production is only 90 000 bottles.

 

According to Alexandre de Lur-Saluces, the winery has had a few good years recently: “Many of those wines will retain their excellent properties far into the next century. The year 2001 seems to be really fine. The wines of that vintage have the potential to develop into some of the best and I am very glad about how this young wine tastes. The year 2000 was perfect in every respect up until the beginning of the harvest. The rain started during our second pick and brought the picking to a standstill. After we had waited for two weeks for the rain to stop, the situation began to look hopeless. Finally we had to send the pickers out without their baskets just to take the grapes off the vines and throw them away. That is why we were able to produce only 30 000 bottles instead of the normal 90 000. The 1999 Yquem will also be a classic. We were happy with the conditions during harvest, and the wine is becoming very high quality.

 

“The year 1998 is yet another classic. These four years were almost perfect as far as weather conditions are concerned. The differentiating factor is the variable weather during the harvest. The 1997 vintage has not yet fully opened, just like the 1996, but it has the potential to develop into a really great wine in the next few decades. Harvesting took us two months and we did seven picks. We had seven different wines that are now slowly harmonising and blending into one.”

 

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Inside information

Chateau d'Yquem has said it will not release its 2013 Sauternes during the traditional period of the Bordeaux en primeur campaign, despite the wine's high rating among critics.

Chateau d'Yquem has decided to 'delay' the release of its 2013 vintage to Bordeaux's negociants, a spokesperson for the chateau's owner, LVMH, confirmed to Decanter.com.

Negociants in Bordeaux broke the news to merchants yesterday (12 May), with one explaining that it has decided to emulate the strategy used for the 2011 vintage, which it did not release until September 2013. The move means that Yquem will have missed the annual Bordeaux en primeur campaigns for the third consecutive year, albeit the estate's management chose not to make a 2012 vintage due to a lack of quality grapes.

This year's Bordeaux en primeur campaign is now in its final stages, with many merchants reporting that a 2013 vitnage book-ended by poor weather has failed to ignite significant interest from consumers. Some merchants have blamed chateaux for not cutting prices sufficiently to garner demand. Chateau d'Yquem was the joint-highest scoring wine of the 2013 vintage in ratings published by Decanter last month. It got 18.5 points, only equalled by Haut-Brion Blanc, a dry white, in what has generally been regarded as a better year for Bordeaux whites versus reds.

 

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2 different wines with 147 vintages

Winemaking since 1593

  • Pierre Lurton

    Manager
    All my life, I fight the rot," Lurton exclaimed, before adding, "and now, I play with the rot!
  • Alexandre de Lur-Saluces

    Previous owner
    “The most important thing is to respect nature, just the way my grandfather and his predecessors did hundreds of years ago. We cannot produce great wines without the help of Mother Nature."

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Wine Moments

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 Neal Martin, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  25 wines 

The 1961 Palmer is a wine that tends to deliver upon its gargantuan reputation and we were rewarded with an exemplary bottle here. It has a clear colour with modest bricking on the rim. The bouquet is difficult to encapsulate into words – utterly ethereal. Heavenly definition, almost Burgundy-like in purity with traces of pencil box and pressed violets. It grows in stature with each swirl of the glass and leaves you transfixed. The palate is bestowed beguiling balanced, almost symmetrical, framed by filigree tannin and pitch perfect acidity. Like the aromatics it coheres with aeration, the fruit undiminished by time even if it is no blockbuster. Quite the opposite – this 1961 Palmer is the apotheosis of finesse with just a hint of balsamic on the aftertaste. This Margaux can bring you to tears of joy. Tasted at the 1961 dinner Chairman Miaow’s in Hong Kong.

19d 14h ago

 Jeannie Cho Lee MW, Wine Writer (South Korea)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  17 wines 

1968 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Cask H12, This bottle took about an hour to come around. At first, the flavours were closed with only hints of dried fruits and smokey notes. After over an hour, the wine started to open up in the glass offering an array of lovely bottled aged flavours – black truffle, autumn leaves, dried violets and leather. Impressive wine, not just because of its age, but because it improved rather than fell apart in the glass over 3 hours. (91)

25d 16h ago

 Jürg Richter / Sauternes Expert, Wine Writer (Switzerland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  10 wines 

Château Filhot 1929 / Bitteres Caramel. Schöne melassige Süsse. Bittermandeln und Amaretto. Gute Säure. Dicht und lang. Mit dem 1929er die grosse Sensation bei Filhot. 

1m 3d ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  10 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Château d' Yquem 2001 / 100 points / What a pure wine, with honey, caramel, cooked apple, bon bon, and pear tart. Dried apricots and peaches develop with time in the glass. What a palate, it is very sweet and rich at the impact, but then it’s dense and opulent like a Grand Cru Burgundy, think Montrachet. Apples, honey, and pineapples with hints of mango on the palate. This is an incredible wine, a real dream, a legend. 150 grams of RS

3m 9d ago

 Jancis Robinson MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  26 wines 

Pol Roger Vintage Champagne 1996 / From magnums served at a 21st birthday party for a wine merchant's daughter called, appropriately enough, Polly. Absolutely sublime. By now fully mature – cast off its youthful acidity – and a very broad, satisfying wine without being in any way heavy. Bone dry and with some putty and breadiness but also great breadth and length. This was a great vintage when it worked (even if some wines never  had enough fruit density to throw off their high charge of acidity) and it really showcases great champagne with magnum age. I have not tasted this wine from bottle recently. 19p

3m 15d ago

 Jancis Robinson MW, Wine Writer (United Kingdom)  tasted  6 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Château d´Yquem 2005 / Yield of 12 hl/ha – almost record high levels! Quite deep gold. Wonderfully deep nose – never smelt anything as intense and glorious as this! Extraordinary!!! Deep yet lively. Exciting depth of pear juice and zest – tangerine peel too. Great astringency. 2001 was more concentrated. This is more transparent. Lovely dancing stuff, but already in the super-nuanced Yquem idiom. Lighter than some vintages but with great lacy complexity. Wonderful green, lively notes and some real explosiveness – 13.5 per cent. Energy drink! Coiled like a taut spring.

5m 13d ago

 James Suckling., Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Krug Vintage 2002 / 100 points / The much-anticipated 2002 has impeccable detail and depth with a lot of chalky, stony and flinty elements on the nose as well as a very fresh edge. The nose is very complex and wound up tight but presents itself as very integrated and compressed. There are aromas of lemon rind, lime juice and a lime custard all at once, complemented in turn by a super-restrained hazelnut-like edge. Undertones of brown mushrooms, chalky minerals and lemon leaf. The palate has a core of sizzlingly intense, concentrated chardonnay framed whitin a powerful phenolic structure that will underpin the future of this Champagne. Flawlessly fresh and as perfect as it gets. Give this time as it needs to settle: best from 2020 and then for another decade beyond.

5m 18d ago

 Heikki Ahdekivi, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  25 wines 

The 1980's tasting - flight III with Margaug 1985, Cheval Blanc 1982, Dominus 1988, Grange 1986 etc,

6m 16d ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  2 wines  from  Château d'Yquem . In a tasting of  20 wines 

Da hatten die 1982er des rechten Ufers richtiggehend Mühe, mitzukommen. Bei 1982 Cheval Blanc war es die verhaltene, etwas grasig wirkende Nase, die eine höhere Bewertung verhinderte. Am Gaumen war er offener und süßer, aber ebenfalls noch nicht voll da – WT96+. Erstaunlich süß, opulent und hedonistisch mit feiner Kräuternote der 1982 Lafleur – WT97. Sieger des Flights mit dekadenter Fülle der 1982 Petrus, der sich in den letzten Jahren unglaublich entwickelt hat und noch lange nicht am Ziel ist – WT98.

7m 18d ago

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