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CHÂTEAU D'YQUEM

Domaine noté ★★★ - Domaine d'Excellence - Guide des Meilleurs Vins de France
18.0/20
Rated by 24 customers

Yquem remains and will remain the greatest and most famous sweet wine in the world. For a hundred years, this unique Premier Cru Classé Supérieur has stood out from other Bordeaux wines by its exemplary consistency, even during bad vintages and difficult periods. Under the direction of Pierre Lurton, already at the head of Cheval Blanc , the cru has been producing only... Read more

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WORLD-FAMOUS SWEET WINE FROM BORDEAUX


In the Gironde department, the small town of Sauternes is one of the most prestigious in France. It is renowned for its production of sweet white wines under the eponymous appellation. Considered the most famous sweet wine in the world, the Sauternes AOC is known for its refinement and complexity, but also for its Grands Crus classés. Produced in the Sauternes region, south of the left bank of Bordeaux, this sweet wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle grapes. Surprisingly golden in colour, it is praised for its flavours and aromas, both complex and harmonious. This sweet white wine owes its exceptional qualities, among others, to the noble rot, under the action of botrytis cinerea. With a name that alone makes you dream, a wine with a luminous colour and unique aromas, Château d'Yquem is one of the jewels of this appellation. Producing a prestigious wine, this estate contributes to France's influence throughout the world. Its exceptional wines are the fruit of the know-how of several generations of passionate winegrowers. Since its beginnings, this château, which has a history of several centuries, has benefited from an exceptional terroir with a rich soil and favourable climatic conditions. Thanks to the meticulous work carried out from the vineyard to the cellar, this emblematic wine estate offers particularly sought-after wines that are praised by wine lovers and collectors alike. Moreover, Château d'Yquem is the only white Premier Cru Supérieur in Bordeaux classified in 1855. Since then, the successive owners, the Sauvage and Lur Saluces families, then the LVMH group, have maintained the genius of this sweet wine and the legend of Yquem. Over the centuries, they have never ceased to promote the know-how, authenticity and modernity of Château d'Yquem.

WHERE IS CHÂTEAU D'YQUEM LOCATED?

A mythical place, an exceptional tourist destination, but also a wine estate of excellence, Château d'Yquem is far from wearing a single label. Located in the Bordeaux vineyards, this emblematic place is situated in the commune of Sauternes. On the heights of the highest hill in the Sauternes region is a sumptuous building dating from the 16th century. A true medieval castle, this imposing fortress is magnified by its crenellated walls and its round and square towers. The Château d'Yquem has been listed as a Historic Monument since 2003.

GRAPE VARIETIES AND VINEYARDS

Plunged into silence, this place full of history has at its feet a vineyard spread over 113 hectares. However, only a hundred or so are used for production. Indeed, at Château d'Yquem, the vines that are too old are uprooted and left to lie fallow for a year. At the end of this time, they are replanted. However, a minimum of five years is necessary for the new vines to produce grapes that meet the estate's criteria. Thus, a dozen hectares remain constantly at rest. The Château d'Yquem vineyard is planted with grape varieties mainly used in the Sauternes AOC. The rich, sappy Sémillon grape occupies the majority of the cultivated area. This variety of grape brings volume and a robust structure to the wines. The Sauvignon Blanc, early but less regular, is also used in the composition of the château's crus, bringing its finesse and aromas to the wines. Finally, Muscadelle is grown in very small quantities in the vineyard. Recognisable by their aromatic complexity, the wines of Château d'Yquem benefit greatly from the exceptional quality and diversity of the vineyard's soils. Indeed, warm and dry on the surface, the soils are made up of large gravelly pebbles which favour the accumulation of heat. The clayey character of the sub-layers, favouring a richness of the soil in water, greatly improves the quality of the terroir. It should be noted that many springs are found on the slopes of Yquem. In the 19th century, the château installed 100 km of underground pipes to drain the vines. The Yquem wine estate also enjoys a micro-climate, giving it a privileged location for the production of great Sauternes wines. Carefully working the soil and the vines in the traditional way, the teams at the château rely on the know-how perpetuated by the teams under the direction of the vineyard manager. Thus, they only use farmyard manure to amend the soil. This operation preserves the natural balance of the soil, maintaining a degree of poverty. This allows the vines to give the best of themselves. Weeding is also carried out using traditional cultivation methods. To ensure maximum ripeness of the berries and to limit the potential quantity, severe pruning is carried out at the beginning of the winter. In addition, some of the vines are thinned out to accelerate the drying of the grapes in the morning.

PREMIER CRU SUPÉRIEUR FROM SAUTERNES AOC


Château d'Yquem is one of the wine estates that have been elevated to the rank of Grands Crus classés in the Sauternes appellation. In 1855, Napoleon III asked the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce to establish an official classification of the wines of this wine-growing region, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in Paris. This classification concerns only the wines of the left bank of the Garonne and includes red and white wines. During this year, Château d'Yquem obtained its letters of nobility with the title of 1er Cru Classé Supérieur. Following this classification, the wine estate experienced a long period of success and development. Indeed, many wine lovers come to Europe to taste this famous sweet wine. Others do not hesitate to spend a very large sum of money to have the privilege of tasting this nectar. It should be noted that only the best vintages can be marketed under the name of Château d'Yquem. Indeed, in order not to sacrifice the exceptional quality of its products, the estate allows itself not to market a vintage in years when the quality of the harvest is judged insufficient.

THE MAGIC OF BOTRYTIS CINEREA


Generally, grape rot is feared by winegrowers. However, this is not the case in the Bordeaux region, especially in Sauternes, where it is sometimes considered an asset and gives the wines exceptional qualities. This is the case when we speak of noble rot, caused by botrytis cinerea. Indeed, the sweet nectar for which this appellation is famous is obtained thanks to the development of this fungus on the grape bunches, turning them brown and covering them with a whitish down. Making the the grapes shrivel, Botrytis Cinerea encourages the evaporation of the water contained in the grapes, thus drying them out. This natural phenomenon has the effect of concentrating the sugars, natural acids and glycerol content inside the berries. The Château d'Yquem vineyard has an ideal geographical location and an exceptional micro-climate, which favours the development of noble rot. This fungus is particularly fond of the morning fog that envelops the vineyards from the rivers. However, to prevent grey rot or mildew from taking hold, the early morning fog must be followed by mild temperatures and sunshine in the afternoon. In the case of the Yquem vines, the development of botrytis cinerea is accelerated by the proximity of the river Ciron, which borders the property to the southwest. In addition, the water-rich clay soil of this vineyard is beneficial for this fungus. At the château, the aim is for the sugar concentration to reach levels well beyond normal ripening to achieve the Yquem "signature". The winemakers aim to obtain a must with a potential alcohol content of 20°, i.e. 360 grams of sugar per litre. To reach this concentration naturally, a long wait is necessary, involving late and prolonged harvesting. This represents a high risk of losing the crop as winter sets in, but also a reduction in the volume of juice by half. In order to harvest only the grapes at the right stage of development of botrytis, the grapes are picked in successive selections. Thus, the grape-pickers carry out on average 5 to 6 selections of the vines over a period of 6 weeks to harvest the botrytised grapes.

AN UNINTENTIONAL DISCOVERY

The harvest of grapes withered by botrytis cinerea was not a voluntary choice. According to legend, a Sauternes chateau owner was invited to a hunting trip in Russia. He ordered his employees to wait for his return before harvesting. On his return, weeks later, he discovered that the rot had affected the entire vineyard. Despite this sad fact, he decided to harvest the withered grapes on the vine. After the vinification, to everyone's surprise, the result was an exceptional sweet wine with a particular roasted taste. A find born of pure chance, delighting the taste buds!

HISTORY OF YQUEM

Shaped by colourful characters, the legend of Château d'Yquem wine has been built over four centuries of history during which many events have taken place. The King of England, Duke of Aquitaine, owned the estate in the Middle Ages. However, under the reign of King Charles VII, the area became part of the French crown in 1453. The estate thus became French. The wine destiny of the estate changed a century and a half later. In 1593, Jacques Sauvage, a descendant of a family of local notables, obtained the rights of simple tenure of the estate, where cutting-edge cultivation practices were already in place. After a few years, the Sauvage family began to build the château. They also selected plot after plot of vines to make up the Yquem vineyard. However, the descendants of Jacques Sauvage did not become the full owners of the estate until 1711, when they were ennobled by Louis XIV. They then took the name Sauvage d'Yquem. The year 1785 was marked by the entry of an old Bordeaux family into the Château d'Yquem. During this year, Françoise Joséphine de Sauvage d'Yquem married Count Louis Amédée de Lur-Saluces. Following his death in 1788, the young widow took on the role of head of the family. She managed the estate brilliantly, making it prosper and developing the reputation of Yquem wine. During this period, she did her utmost to preserve the family heritage despite the abuses of the Revolution, which twice landed her in prison. With the help of her steward Garos, Françoise Joséphine introduced a bold innovation in 1826. She had a winery built, turning the estate into a real wine company. Château d'Yquem became internationally renowned under the management of Romain-Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, grandson of Françoise-Joséphine. Four years after the death of Françoise-Joséphine, the estate was propelled to the top thanks to the 1855 classification, established for the Universal Exhibition in Paris. From then on, Château d'Yquem enjoyed several years of prosperity. After the death of Romain-Bertrand, the Marquis Amédée de Lur-Saluces, then his brother Eugène, took over the administration of the estate. With the phylloxera invasion and the First World War, the following years were not the best for Château d'Yquem. Thus, in 1914, the building was transformed into a military hospital. After fulfilling his role as an officer in the trenches, the Marquis Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, son of Eugène, found himself at the head of the estate. For half a century, this man of character maintained the philosophy of the successive owners of the château. Defending the family estates, he contested the chaptalisation of his wine. In addition, he took part in the determination of the Sauternes AOC and participated in the setting up of the bottling system at the château. After spending two years in prison during the Second World War, Bertrand de Lur-Saluces developed the international reputation of the estate. In 1966, Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, who had no children, chose Alexandre de Lur-Saluces, one of his nephews, to ensure the future of the estate. Finding himself at the head of Château d'Yquem, he faced numerous difficulties (inheritance tax, a crisis in the wine trade and disastrous vintages), threatening the survival of the estate. However, thanks to rigorous management and an excellent year in 1975, the vineyard managed to stay on its feet. During the 1980s, Château d'Yquem achieved better harvests, allowing it to make new investments. Over the following years, the estate continued to develop. Towards the end of the 20th century, Bernard Arnault, head of the LVMH group, bought Château d'Yquem, marking its entry into a new era. Since then, the estate has continued to produce a wine of excellence, refinement and elegance.

A GOLDEN NECTAR


Attracting great connoisseurs, Yquem wine surprises with its harmonious and complex aromas and flavours. A true inimitable marvel, this nectar, with its sumptuous golden colour, is renowned for its lovely aromatic expression, its texture and its remarkable persistent length on the palate. Not very expansive, the young vintages are marked by fruity notes of apricot and tangerine, progressing to woody aromas (toast and vanilla). As soon as the bottle is opened, the older vintages reveal extraordinary aromas, combining notes of dried fruit (prune, dried apricot), candied fruit (candied lemon), honey and spicy aromas (saffron, cinnamon, liquorice). The whole is subtly chiselled by the freshness of the floral fragrances (lime blossom).

On the palate, this wine reveals a silky texture, evolving into a more enveloping sensation, coating the palate. Light and elegant, this nectar offers a nice balance between sweetness and freshness, punctuated by a touch of bitterness. This wine has a style all its own, leaving a long-lasting aroma on the finish.

WHEN TO DRINK CHÂTEAU D'YQUEM?


To ensure that tasting a bottle of Château d'Yquem is an optimal experience, it is important to follow certain rules, particularly with regard to serving. Generally speaking, a bottle of Sauternes should be opened a little in advance. Older vintages are best opened one or two hours before tasting. Concerning the temperature of service, a great Sauternes is best enjoyed cool, at around 10°C. Tasting should be done without haste to allow the wine to fully express its different aromas. To accompany an exceptional Sauternes such as a Château d'Yquem wine, there is a wide choice of food and wine pairings. Often served as an aperitif, this nectar also goes well with many main courses. This Grand Cru goes wonderfully with simple poultry dishes such as roast chicken. However, it is also possible to pair it with more elaborate dishes such as a cassolette of scallops or grilled lobster with mango. A vintage of Château d'Yquem is also a perfect accompaniment to fish with delicate and fine flesh such as turbot with orange or sole meunière. A bottle of Château d'Yquem can also be served with dessert to create harmonious combinations. Citrus desserts, whose aromas are found both on the nose and in the mouth when this wine is tasted, is particularly recommended. The aromas of the wine also go very well with the candied orange of chocolate oranges. Sauternes also goes well with fruity desserts with light flavours such as pineapple or pear pie. It also works well with caramelised desserts such as tarte Tatin. In all cases, desserts that are too rich in sugar, which may be over-concentrated and bitter, are not recommended so as not to assault the palate.

WHAT IS THE PRICE OF CHÂTEAU YQUEM?


Highly priced, much more expensive than the majority of other Sauternes wines, a Château d'Yquem vintage is a true gustatory gem of Bordeaux wines. It is an absolute reference in terms of sweet wines, and provides connoisseurs and wine lovers with an extraordinary memory. Depending on the vintage, this wine can cost a few hundred euros, or even thousands of euros, especially for the older vintages. A price justified by the quality and prestige of this nectar! With its small yields, limited to one glass per vine, Château d'Yquem produces a rare and exceptional wine, hence its high price. However, despite its high cost, acquiring a bottle from this estate remains a real investment, especially thanks to the second wines. These are wines of a lesser quality than the Château d'Yquem wines, but which are still of high quality. It is also possible to invest in the most sought-after vintages during a wine en primeur sale. Indeed, this system makes it possible to acquire Grands Crus at a lower price than that established at the time of delivery (approximately two years after the pre-order).