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With an annual production of 10,000 bottles a year, Y (pronounced "ee-grek" in French) is a rare wine. It is made from the same outstanding terroir and the same vines as Château d'Yquem. Although work in the vineyard is every bit as meticulous, the grapes are picked and the wine made in a different way.
Y was formerly made at the end of the harvest, with the last bunches left on the vines. These grapes, affected to varying degrees by Botrytis cinerea, but never with more than 15% potential alcohol, resulted in a very unusual wine. This explains why it has always been produced in small quantities and on an irregular basis since 1959. Y changed starting in 1996, but without compromising its unique character, to be more in tune with the times by displaying the qualities of freshness and crispness – essential for a modern great white wine. It was decided in 2004 to make Y every year. It is thus by deliberate choice that we now harvest certain plots of Sauvignon Blanc at the beginning of the vintage, making sure to pick perfectly ripe bunches. These are completed by Sémillon grapes picked just at that fleeting stage when the grapes have reached maximum ripeness, botrytis has just appeared, and the skins have turned a pinkish colour. This is the precise moment when this grape variety's tannins are soft enough for the aromatic potential of the best plots of clay soil to come through.
The wine receives close attention all during fermentation: light, precise pressing as well as temperature-controlled must racking and alcoholic fermentation in a new aesthetically pleasing, state-of-the-art vat room set aside just for this wine. The end of fermentation and ageing on the lees take place in barrels. Only one third of these are new, and the lees are regularly stirred (bâtonnage) for ten months.
The 2000 vintage will long be remembered for above-average temperatures. Except for the unseasonable cool period around the 14th of July, it was constantly 2°C warmer than usual in March, June, August, and September. This inevitably led to very early maturity, with physiological ripeness reached at the very beginning of September in grapes that actually suffered from a lack of water.
The perfect ripeness of the very early-maturing Sauvignon Blanc in 2000 meant that we could pick a few bunches as early as the 12th and 13th of September.
However, as of the 13th, we were able to create a more usual balance with the slightly less opulent Sémillon.
Priorities were focused on Yquem in the following weeks, so it was only on the 5th of October, between the first and second passes to harvest Sauternes, that we could begin to pick grapes for Y again. This was because an even degree of ripeness in both grape varieties had been achieved in late-maturing plots with clay soil.
BORDEAUX 2000 – A DREAM VINTAGE
Weather conditions / Vintage 2000 has from the very start been proclaimed as one of the best vintages of modern times. In spring 2003, I've had many opportunities to find out, if we really have a true dream vintage in our hands.
During harvest 2000, while doing "personal inspection" in the vineyards, I noticed that something extraordinary big was on its way. Grapes looked extremely healthy.
While sorting table was rolling, I observed, that there were few leaves, stalks and weeds among the grapes. That's why sorting out grapes went so easy and quick. It must be one of hallmarks of 2000 vintage, because normally even the great vintages require a lot of work at sorting table.
2000 vintage is classic, extravagant and extremely long-lived Bordeaux with dark, extremely dense wines, which have enormous concentration of fruit, length and superbly concentrated tannin. The tannin is not allowed to dominate, because it's well wrapped up by fruit. A scent of sub-maturity is only present in few wines. One of this vintage's trademarks is an intense and deep aroma of dark berries, like blueberries, blackberries and black cherries.
All red grape varieties reached perfect maturity, including Bordeaux' most capricious and unruly grape variety, Petit Verdot. Petit Verdot gives the much meeded contribution of backbone and power to the wines.
Also the grapes for whites, like Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle, did ripe perfectly and produced tremendously fine dry white wines. Sweet white wines turned unfortunately to be a few light, elegant and charming wines, which were based 100% on September pickings. Beginning on the 11th October, it rained heavily in Bordeaux and it continued until the end of the year.