It’s hard to taste a sip of Château d’Yquem Sauternes and not be transported. It’s one of the most ethereal, sublime sweet wines you can put in your mouth. From Jefferson and Washington to the Tsars of Russia, d’Yquem’s list of fans is centuries old and many thousands of names long. We invite you to commune with them.
D’Yquem [DEE-kemm] is a blend of primarily Sémillon (80%) and Sauvignon Blanc (20%), from fanatically low yields—one vine typically produces one glass or less. Pickers typically pick the 90-hectare vineyard in 6 passes to ensure that only perfectly botrytised fruit is harvested. The level of care exercised here is simply unparalleled in the world, let alone France. Its perfumes of honey, crème brulée, pineapple, apricot, and exotic spices are simply intoxicating.
In order to fully appreciate what we’re describing, you should experience this wine with some bottle age. Not many wines can age 50-100+ years and still reveal an astonishing delicacy and grace at the table. Why not lay in a 6 pack or a case of this brilliant 2016, for yourself or posterity?
“What a sexy and moreish wine that makes you want to drink the whole bottle. Flavors and aromas of cooked apples, grilled pineapple, pie crust, apricots, dried mushrooms and flan. Full-bodied, yet tight and reserved. Very long and powerful. Lasts for minutes. Another great wine.”
Owners LVMH took the decision to delay the release of the 2019 Yquem until spring 2022. It was tasted with winemaker Sandrine Garbay in London. After the summer drought when Sauternes received just 2.5mm of rain until 26 July, that day saw a 112mm deluge that replenished underground reserves and gave ripening the push it needed. Dry and warm conditions prevailed throughout September when there was no sign of botrytis infection. That was finally provoked by 38mm of rain between 21 and 25 of September, followed by warm clement weather. After minor picking of Sauvignon Blanc on 7 of October, the main harvest began in earnest on 10 October. Pickers worked over the following five days, including Sunday. Time was of the essence because, as forecasts predicted, the weather suddenly changed on 14 of October with 40mm or rain. After that, the picking teams skirted between showers between 17 and 22 of October, though by now the fruit had begun to deteriorate. Therefore, the key aspect of this Yquem is the extremely tight picking window. The final blend contains 138g/L residual sugar, which is slightly less than the previous vintage, with 5.5g/L total acidity and 14.4% alcohol. Tasting the 2019, I noticed that it has a slightly paler hue compared to recent vintages (though I never read too much into the colour of young Sauternes.) For certain, it has a highly-aromatic bouquet that is beguiling in purity, enticing aromas of honeysuckle and saffron, soon joined by camomile, white flowers and orange blossom. It has wonderful delineation and gains intensity with aeration. The palate is supremely well-balanced with fine bead of acidity. Very harmonious and armed with just the right amount of viscosity, this Yquem is surprisingly understated at first but gains presence, offering irresistible flavours of layers of honey, lemongrass, lemon thyme and orange pith. Yquem is so tempting in its youth, but I feel that this vintage will repay those with the nous to cellar for at least a decade.
The 2019 vintage of Château d'Yquem has the highest proportion (45%) of Sauvignon Blanc in any modern Yquem. The Sauvignon Blanc adds to the freshness, acting as a great balance to the succulent, sweet and voluptuous palate. Intense peach and apricot, combined with lemon and orange zest, make this highly appealing to drink right away – an ideal vintage with which to start Yquem’s ‘lighthouse’ project. However, it would be a shame not to give this 10+ years maturation to see how it develops. Very well, I suspect. The growing season was both warm and wet, with mildew a big threat. After a mostly dry September, 40mm rain came at the end of the month, leading to a very short harvest window. All of the Yquem grapes were picked in two tries within a one-week period.
A special wine right from the start, this glistens with pure papaya, mango, white peach and mirabelle plum, joined by elder flower honey, toasted macadamia nut and orange blossom notes. Ends with a remarkably long finish. Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Drink now
A juicy Yquem with tarte tartin, salted caramel and dried oranges on the nose and palate. Medium-to full-bodied and medium-sweet with a creamy and round texture. Bright and vivid. Lovely texture. Long. Evolves to caramel and burnt vanilla sugar. 55% semillon and 45% sauvignon. 138g/L residual. Drink or hold.