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Sotheby’s London announced that an extraordinary 70- vintage vertical collection from the famed Château d’Yquem, arguably the world’s greatest sweet wine, sold to a European Private Buyer for £368,000 (est. in excess of £100,000*) in a sale of Finest and Rarest Wines.
Bidding was vigorous with the highly sought-after lot contested by two telephone bidders and a room bidder. When the hammer finally fell, the price far exceeded expectations. Commenting on the sale, Stephen Mould, Head of Sotheby’s European Wine Department, and today’s auctioneer said “We had
expected and indeed received a lot of interest from Europe and Asia in this special lot but we were delighted with the result, which set a record for a single wine lot sold by Sotheby’s in London and the second highest price for a wine lot sold at Sotheby’s.** The final price demonstrates how wines of such exceptional provenance sell for well in excess of high estimate.” This century-spanning vertical comprised 136 bottles, two from every year featured (with the exception of four vintages), from 1892 to the stupendous 2001 vintage. Among these are wonders such as 1896,
1899, 1909, 1921, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1934, 1937, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1967 and all the great wines of the modern era; not one of the bottles in this collection has ever previously surfaced from the cellars of the Château.
Serena Sutcliffe, MW, International Head of Sotheby’s Wine department, said: “Of all the great wines produced in the Sauternes region of Bordeaux, Château d’Yquem is widely acknowledged as the most splendid, a wine that seems indestructible and an unparalleled sensory experience. Renowned for its lusciousness, concentration, and longevity, it has long commanded the highest prices at auction and is pursued in today’s market by long-standing and new collectors alike.”
The pleasure derived from tasting Yquem is difficult to describe.
It offers a myriad of well-balanced, complex flavours that generate even more harmonies over time. The impression that remains is reminiscent of a quote from Frédéric Dard "the silence that follows a piece by Mozart, in which the listener remains suffused with the music". This reflects the fact that Château d'Yquem stays on the palate for a remarkable long time, providing a unique, prolonged pleasure. There is a lovely expression in French to describe Yquem's tremendously long aftertaste: il fait la queue du paon, which means that it spreads out like a peacock's tail.
It is always difficult to describe wine-tasting experiences with any precision. The senses of sight, smell, taste and touch are all stimulated virtually at the same time. While gifted tasters can identify some of the aromas and flavours in a glass of Yquem in an effort to define its complexity, they never really succeed in communicating its essence or explaining its mystery. Mere analysis, whether chemical or organoleptic, is not sufficient to account for Yquem's greatness. Yquem tells a unique story... It starts with the bouquet. Although not always very outgoing in young vintages, it is marked by fruit (apricot, mandarin, and occasionally tropical fruit) and oak (vanilla and toasty aromas). Older vintages, on the other hand, have an extraordinarily complex fragrance as soon as the bottle is opened, with hints of dried fruit (dried apricot, prune, stewed fruit, and marmalade), spice (cinnamon, saffron, and liquorice), and even flowers (lime blossom, etc.). The first impression of Château d'Yquem on the palate is always very silky, and often sumptuous. It then fills out, "coating the palate". This fine wine has a strong, but never overbearing character, with great elegance and poise. It always maintains a balance between sugar and acidity (sweetness and freshness). A touch of bitterness can also contribute to the overall harmony. Château d'Yquem's aftertaste is legendary, and it tells another story, which lasts and lasts…
Certain connoisseurs consider it outrageous to drink a young Yquem and believe that opening such a monumental wine before its thirtieth birthday is tantamount to a sacrilege. Others, on the contrary, think that Yquem can be enjoyed at all stages in its life.
Chateau d`Yquem is often described as the greatest sweet wine in the world. After centuries of family ownership, Yquem was was bought by Louis Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy in 1999. Its former owner and director Alexandre de Lur-Saluce remains in charge. Yquem is located on the highest hill in Sauternes and enjoys the best growing conditions in the whole appellation. The 110-hectare vineyard is planted with 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Only fully botrytized fruit is picked by the 150 highly skilled pickers and yields are so low that each vine produces only one glass of wine. Yquem is fermented in oak barrels (100% new) and is left in barriques to mature for up to 36 months. Intensely opulent when young, Yquem develops an extraordinary complexity and exotic richness when fully mature, with the best vintages lasting for over 50 years. Château d'Yquem is classified as a 1er Cru Classé supérieur.
A heavy frost on the 20th of March (-6.3°C) caused major damage. The weather thereafter was very beautiful and dry until October. The harvest started at the end of September. Two rainy periods (20 mm) uniformly botrytised the whole crop. This was followed by three weeks of dry weather that allowed for two plentiful passes with very rich grapes. The quantity and degree of potential alcohol increased gradually for 13 days in a row.