A drinkable light! — Château d’Yquem
By Sophie Lamontagne – Le Coureur des Bois Bistro Culinaire
There are some of these wines on the market that are our everyday partners: the ones that we choose on a weeknight, without any pretension, that we share with our beloved people in pleasure and ease. Then, there are special wines. The ones that, by their tasting only, mark your memory as much as the imaginary. The names of great red wines are probably crossing your mind to this idea. However, beyond the Cros Parantoux and Petrus of this world, beyond all these Cabernets and Syrah, and despite the wish to have a dry and structured wine, all will agree on the greatness of a liquorous: Yquem.
The term noble rot is not to be taken lightly in the case of the Château d’Yquem because this wine is undeniably noble, both in profile and history. Located in Bordeaux, the land owned by the Duchy of Aquitaine during the Middle Ages then reattached to the French crown during the XVth century, we can’t talk about this domain without mentioning the Countess Françoise Joséphine de Lur-Saluces. Like the Veuve Clicquot in Champagne, it is her that takes over the management of Yquem after de premature death of her husband. We owe her, notably, the construction of the domain’s winery, an act that needed an unimaginable amount of audacity, but also her international reputation and its preservation during the Revolution. The descendants of the woman that we call Dame d’Yquem proudly followed her steps. Among them, Romain-Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, her grandson. It’s under his management that the castle received the unique mention of Premier Cru supérieur in 1855. Its name is thus immortalized as are the Grand crus classés, its “not so far away” neighbors.
To our greatest pleasure, the legend of Yquem survived the Phylloxera crisis and the World Wars, even though it was momentarily reoriented as a military hospital. The rigorous management of the estate saved it from the poorest vintages, allowing it to enjoy a mythical reputation today.
Yquem is what gold and silk would taste if we could translate them into aromas. Frédéric Dard speaks of it with great poetry: “An exquisite nobleness descending into you like a light. Because Yquem is also light. Drinkable light!” He also compares its long finale with music, alluding to “the silence that follows Mozart, which is still Mozart.” This richness is born from the unique circumstances around this terroir. The gravel soils of the Sauternes region provide the vine with all the heat needed for its maturation, while the clay, present through the whole geological mosaic of 133 hectares, gives it its water reserves. Humidity also plays an important role during the wine production, being essential for the development of botrytis – this famous noble rot that transforms, in a subtle way, the blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon blanc. Body, Freshness, and softness are then uniting to create a perfect balance before the outcome of this exceptional wine.
Château d’Yquem 2015
A hot vintage translated in the richness of its aromas. Honey, candied lemon, orange jam, vanilla: everything, to the nose, says candy and gluttony. Its structure is opulent and distinguished, balanced by the typical freshness of its grape varieties. Designated as the century’s vintage by many, the aging potential of 2015 will hardly be equalized.
Château d’Yquem 2014
Early harvests, a quarter of which were before mid-September, gave a remarkable vivacity to this vintage. The nose is expressive with aromas of lemon zest confit, apricot, and linden flowers. The palate is silky but frank and refreshing. The acidity cuts the sweet and generous character of the wine, thus giving it a balance that is hardly comparable.
Château d’Yquem 2003
If the young vintages are known for their freshness, the elegance of the older ones is far from neglecting. 2003 is known for its intense heat and rains in early September. These conditions allowed the total growth of botrytis and a single harvest. The nose evokes mostly saffron and dried orange peels, as well as cinnamon. Aging has softened the sugar and acidity of the wine, but its balance and length in mouth continue to charm the taster.