Wines from Château d’Yquem are characterised by their complexity, concentration and sweetness. They are also known for their longevity. In the 1855 Bordeaux winery classification, Château d’Yquem was the only winery producing Sauternes to be given a rating, due to the extremely high quality of the estate. It is an outstanding estate – “nobility that has stood the test of time”, according to Château d’Yquem’s marketing literature. It is no exaggeration!
“While Minister Plenipotentiary to France, Thomas Jefferson visited the château and later wrote, “Sauterne. This is the best white wine of France and the best of it is made by Monsieur de Lur-Saluces [Château d’Yquem].” Jefferson ordered 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage for himself, and additional bottles for George Washington. However, at that time the technique of allowing noble rot to infect grapes had not yet been discovered, so the wine Jefferson was drinking was a different sweet wine.” — Wikipedia
“The making of Château d’Yquem depends on the development of a fungus with outstanding qualities called Botrytis cinera. This takes over the grapes and accounts for the wine’s rare and inimitable aromas. Alternating morning mists and dry, hot afternoons gives rise to this “noble rot” that transfigures the fruit.
“The fact that all the other great growths of Sauternes are located within 2 km (1.25 miles) of Yquem…confirms that Yquem is the epicenter of a complex microclimate conducive to noble rot.
“When it develops positively, this fungus begins by attacking the berries and giving them a color varying from brown to russet. The grape skins become permeable at this stage, which leads to intense evaporation. Sugar, richness, and flavors then become concentrated at levels far beyond those found with normal ripening.
“Only fully-botrytised grapes are picked. This magic phenomenon of botyrtisation is nevertheless fragile and endangered by any number of meteorological factors. If the weather is too dry, Botrytis is stymied. And if it rains too much, the grapes stop becoming concentrated. F urthermore, other types of fungus are waiting in the wings to benefit from Botrytis’ weaknesses to take its place and ruin the grapes irredeemably.
“The result of the enormous risk is reflected in tremendously low yields. Indeed, no wine at all is sold under the Yquem name in certain years.” — Château d’Yquem booklet, 2014 edition
“The final alcoholic degree varies from 12.5 to 14.5 [percent], depending on the sugar levels in the must and the composition of the grapes. The average is 13.5 percent…Wine from each different lot of grapes is aged separately for 6 – 8 months, entirely in barrel. A preliminary blend is made in the spring following the vintage after in-depth blind tastings to harmonise the various types of wine and eliminate those barrels that do not meet Yquem ‘s strict standards.
“Wines deemed worthy of becoming Yquem go into an underground cellar where they will stay, in barrel, for fourteen months.” — Château d’Yquem booklet, 2014 edition
“On average, 65,000 bottles are produced each year. In a poor vintage, the entire crop is deemed unworthy of bearing the Château’s name and sold anonymously; this happened nine times in the 20th century: 1910, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1974, and 1992 and in the 21st century one time: 2012.” — Wikipedia