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YQUEM (Château)

Yquem remains and will remain the largest 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 great masterpieces for the past ten years, deserving more than ever of its status as a mythical wine. The particularity of Yquem comes from its unique terroir. Here, botrytis develops like nowhere else and offers absolutely marvellous Sauternes, with controlled sumptuousness and an incredible potential for flavour that puts it far ahead of all its neighbours. Yes, Yquem, is a myth in and of itself and yes, the prices are high. But Yquem is excellence in its purest form: no lover of sweet wines should refrain from tasting it at least once in his/her life...

Guide Bettane et Desseauve 2015 : ★★★★★ Guide Bettane et Desseauve 2016 : ★★★★★ Guide des Meilleurs Vins de France 2015 : Rated ★★★
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 Mosaic  Detailed

Yquem invites silence and meditation. Tasting it always provides a moment of perfection, a break, in the agitation and confusion of today’s life.

The great natural peace

This dazzling liquid seems to radiate its own light from within. It offers to the eye all the nuances of gold and sunshine. Over the years, the colour of Yquem changes from dawn to dusk, from crystalline straw yellow to an increasingly dense, translucent mahogany and red, to the dark, opaque caramel of older vintages.

Even before bringing the glass closer, all tensions subside. You become fully relaxed, tranquil, and serene. As if this wine knows how to make you ready, attentive and available to taste it.

Yquem possesses the unalterable majesty of a mountain, insensitive to the winds that assail it or to the thickness of the dark clouds that swirl at its summit. It refuses to obey the law of gravity in the glass and flows very slowly down the side.

Its fruit, flower and spice aromas take you into the most extraordinary of gardens, a garden that contains all the scents of the world. First, the freshness of peach, apricot, melon, pineapple and coconut. But also the most beautiful citrus fruits: orange blossom, candied lemon, mandarin… Then, the lively scents of linden blossom and honeysuckle caress you. The fragrances are infinite. It's time for the spices to spurt out of the glass. Vanilla, cinnamon, saffron, liquorice, with an intensity of great generosity. Caramel, wax and honey finally envelop you with their unreal richness and purity. With Yquem, paradise is within the palate’s reach, as this wine condenses all the fragrances of the Garden of Genesis.

Yquem has the secret of encompassing sensations that are opposite at first glance: softness and freshness, presence and lightness, elegance and flamboyance. Perfect, absolute harmony is achieved with every sip.

With Yquem, every mistake is forgiven. All pain is forgotten. All sadness consoled and turned into tears of happiness.

At that moment, everything becomes lively, clear, overflowing with life, sparkling with joy and freshness. A great inner peace rises within you, an inexplicable but growing feeling of unshakeable certainty. You live a moment of eternity and absoluteness where everything is suspended. The radiant light of the sun without the veil of Yquem shines in your heart.

Living, dying and being reborn

Living, dying and being reborn. The entire Yquem tradition is a ritual that illustrates this natural process in every action. There are three main phases in this annual cycle:

The first: terrestrial and solar life. Dominated by the quest for the perfect maturity of the grapes, the greatest complexity, and the most extraordinary concentration. At Yquem, the sun reigns, omnipresent. The vines cover three hills that dominate the Garonne valley, at almost one hundred metres of altitude. East, south, west, north, the eyes can follow the sun all day long. As the grapes benefit from all possible cardinal exposures, the sun allows each vintage to reach the greatest possible ripeness.

The sun ripens two grape varieties in Yquem: Semillon (80%), which has a sap taste and gives the wine its power; and Sauvignon (20%), which gives it its finesse, fruit aromas and freshness. The concentration of aromas in each grape is ensured both by the sun and by the altitude of the hillside which naturally brings any superfluous moisture down to the depths of the soil.

Stones, clay and sand. It is also from its soils that Yquem pulls its great richness. Under the action of the sun, this extraordinary diversity of soil textures is transmuted into a great complexity of aromas and flavours of the grapes and then of the wine. The one hundred and thirteen hectares of vines are so diverse and contrasting that one could "make four very great wines here, completely different", according to Pierre Lurton, who presides over Yquem's destiny.

In September, the maturity and quality of the grapes is such that Yquem could easily produce one of the greatest dry white wines in the world. But it is precisely at this time that the second phase of the Yquem cycle begins: the slow death of the grapes, which are full of life.

Coming from the Landes, and flowing at the foot of Yquem, the Ciron is a stream that never sees the sun's rays, a vault of leaves covering it all along its course. When its cold waters flow into the warmer waters of the Garonne, the meeting of the two gives rise in the morning to very thick, mysterious mists that completely hide the hills, the vines and the sun.

In this humidity, a fungus deadly to grapes, called Botrytis cinerea, appears and spreads irregularly in the vineyards. As the climate here is oceanic, and therefore contrasted, these mists fade towards the middle of the day to give way to strong sunshine in the afternoon. Humidity gives way to drought.

Botrytis - the "noble rot" as it is called in Sauternes - clings to the grape skin, digests it and then insinuates itself into the berry. Hell's fire burns the grapes from the inside, making the water evaporate. Juice and matter concentrate. The sugar content increases (up to 400 grams per litre) and gives the wine its fabulous richness and unique ability to stand the test of time.

The dry oriental wind dries the berries in the afternoons, preventing lesions from forming on the skin, prolonging the action of Botrytis. Each grape berry thus attacked withers, rots, and becomes covered with a repulsive ash-coloured film. The bunches seem to twist in pain. According to Pierre Lurton, "It is a form of leprosy that kills the grapes of Yquem". Ready for the great journey beyond the mysteries of ancient Egypt, the grapes are mummified under a veil of Botrytis ashes.

At this moment, and with attention and discipline - the cosmic elements only destined for this particular death certain grapes - man can begin the harvest that concludes this second phase. They are among the longest in the world: one hundred and fifty men and women can spend up to ten times in the vineyards, for several months, to collect the dried bodies of the grapes. The rows of Yquem's vineyards then look like a funeral convoy. When the pickers deposit the remains of the grapes in large containers, the veils of Botrytis ashes tear and greyish fumes of dust rise.

Then can begin the third and last phase of this mysterious alchemy, that of rebirth where from the darkness of death, light and life will spring forth. Once in the cellars, the grapes are slowly pressed. Miraculously, from these blackish grapes a golden yellow juice emerges, the colour of youth, strength and eternity. Symbol of the gods. The silence at this moment is striking. Then, slowly (up to 40 months compared to 24 months for red wines), this crystalline juice will ferment, turn into wine, and age in oak barrels. After this long journey, when this magical liquid is bottled in bottles as transparent as the sky, the alchemical transmutation will be complete.

From the darkness of death, light and life will have sprung, the sun will have incarnated in Yquem.

Fifty years, a hundred years, a hundred and fifty years... Because it has crossed death, Yquem can indefinitely cross time.

The royal abbey

Yquem is a place out of time, a protected space, kept away from the noises and uncertainties of human life for centuries. As soon as you approach it, the special and precious feeling of being far from everything, and so close to the essential invades you.

Although it looks like one, Yquem is not only a castle. It's more like an abbey. A sacred place of peace, silence and work.

Perched on a nearly one hundred metres high hill, some fifty kilometres south-east of Bordeaux, Yquem is the highest point and the heart of all Sauternes. It overlooks the entire Garonne valley that flows towards Bordeaux, and all the Sauternes Premiers Crus Classés, which are located within a radius of 1.6 kilometres around it, like vassals assembled around their king.

The feeling of dominance is reinforced by the sky. Huge. As far as the eye can see. In all directions, nothing stops the gaze. Except perhaps a few wood pigeons tracing geometrical and symmetrical figures. Yquem is the only Premier Cru Classé Supérieur, it dominates the world, with the certainty of being a sacred mountain, one of those special places where miracles are performed.

Climbing up the steep path to the top, the castle is open to you. Feudal, it was originally a fortified house, transformed over time into a fortified farm. Ramparts, towers with pointed roofs, inner courtyard, all architectural styles are present. But the dominant impression is one of a perfect harmony, and a great simplicity.

Spread all over the hillsides and further afield, the vines, mostly oriented on the sacred north/south axis, cover the entire landscape over one hundred hectares. A silence of inner peace, of unspeakable and sparkling joie de vivre emanates from the place and from all the faces you come across as you walk along. The complicity of those you know inner simplicity is almost palpable. IN the vivacity of the air, on the yellow stones of the castle, on the golden earth of the ground, everywhere, a bright and golden light surrounds you and prepares you for that which will spring from the nectar.

One of Yquem's most secret places is just a few meters away. It's a labyrinth of old vintages. Several centuries of Yquem and treasures are stored there, arranged, annotated with memories. No darkness here, as these illuminated wines illuminate the long room with a yellow and golden light. Here again, Yquem proves that it knows how to bring light out of darkness, and life out of death.

Yquem is a pilgrimage, a journey towards peace and silence. Everyone can find themselves there, taste and appreciate these magical moments where time is suspended at every moment.

The crown keepers

As the embodiment of the universal principle of life, death and rebirth, Yquem cannot really belong to any man. Throughout the years, those who have had to temporarily rule over Yquem have always been its guardians, its stewards.

Durability. Perfection. Sacred. Transcendence. The history of Yquem is beautifully summed up in the symbol that adorns its bottles: the crown. And it is this crown that has been passed down to each heir throughout Yquem's thousand-year history.

Almost a thousand years ago, Yquem was a royal estate, the only one of the greatest wines of Bordeaux to have belonged to kings. Nothing could be more normal since, like Yquem, the king was at the time the incarnation of the divine principle on Earth. In the Middle Ages, in 1137, Yquem was owned by Eleanor of Aquitaine. After a first marriage with the future King of France Louis VII, she married Henri Plantagenet, who became King of England under the name of Henry II. For three centuries, Yquem thus belonged to the crown of England. In 1453, at the end of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), Yquem returned to the French crown. Some scholars claim that at the time of Francis I (1494-1547) and Leonardo da Vinci, the grapes were left to rot in Yquem, in order to produce this magical beverage.

When, during the Renaissance, the immutable order of the world is was called into question, certainties was challenged, the monarchy of divine essence contested, Providence entrusts entrusted the crown of Yquem to a family: the Savages. In 1593, Jacques Sauvage, a local notable, receives from the King of France the rights of simple tenure on the lands of Yquem. In 1650, his descendants were ennobled by Louis XIV. In 1785, on the eve of the revolutionary turmoil, Françoise-Joséphine Sauvage d'Yquem - the descendant of Jacques Sauvage - married Count Louis Amédée de Lur Saluces. The crown of Yquem remains in the same family but by marriage will henceforth be associated with the name of Lur Saluces. Romain-Bertrand, Amédée, Eugène, Bertrand, Alexandre... the line of Lur Saluces continues to each generation until the end of the 20th century. Conscious of his high office, each of the representatives of this family - designated and chosen by name by his predecessor - will allow Yquem to go through the storms of history without hindrance during these two tormented centuries.

At the end of the 20th century, at a time when globalization threatened Yquem's independence and sustainability, the Lur Saluces family decided to entrust Yquem's crown of sun and gold to the luxury LVMH, Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton group, undoubtedly the best equipped French empire both culturally and financially to preserve it and to perpetuate these sacred rites in the third millennium.

In the end, each of Yquem's successive keepers was magnificently worthy of his charge, displaying five qualities that are often rare today.

Firstly, excellence. Each of the 600,000 vines receiving a total of fifty different treatments, thirty million perfect gestures are made each year. Each of them is carried out with the same devotion and meticulousness that the monks’ illuminators of the Middle Ages used to copy the sacred texts.

Courage. So that through the vicissitudes and adversity of time, whatever the cost, Yquem remains what it must be.

Humility. Of those who know they are only servants of a mystery that is beyond them.

Detachment. For each year, nature can destroy in one day the work of a year: with rain, the grapes become waterlogged, and concentration disappears. Unable to produce Yquem wines, the grapes are cut and left on the ground to decompose. There is then no vintage produced in Yquem.

And the belief in the sacred and superlative. As Pierre Lurton said, "Here, man must rise to the heights of Yquem." Yquem does not belong to the world of the now, but to the world of the superlative.

 The Holy Grail

Beyond words. Unspeakable. With Yquem, we leave the world of wines to enter the world of symbols, where what we can neither say nor write is suggested.

Made of light and gold. Repository of all hermetic traditions. Endowed with magical powers. If there is one object that can symbolize the perpetuated quest in Yquem, it is the Holy Grail of medieval literature. Object of the quests of the Knights of the Round Table. The blessed who succeed in dipping their lips into a chalice of Yquem wine know it: from this elixir is born the mysterious and intuitive understanding of the secrets of all things.

Like the Grail, Yquem symbolizes the inner fullness that men have always ardently sought. It is a mirror of the spiritual adventure, of the transformation of mind and heart that takes place in the man who seeks it.

Yquem is the wine one should taste before dying. To prepare for it, and to enter it in all serenity. And keep in mind these words of an old sage:

I rejoice in death far more…

Than the sailors who amass great fortunes on the seas,

Or the lords of the gods who boast of their victories in battle;

I will linger no longer in this world;

But I will dwell in the citadel of the great bliss of immortality

Did you know?

We can say without blushing that Yquem is one of the most prestigious estates in Bordeaux.

From 1785 to 1997, this estate belonged to the Lur-Saluces family. A goal: excellence at any price. In 1964, after harvesting in 13 selections, the entire harvest was finally downgraded.

That year, Yquem did not produce any wine. One vine stock is needed to produce a single glass of Yquem and wait 4 years after the harvest is needed before spreading the wine.

→ Region: Sauternes (cru de Graves)

→ Grape varieties: 80% Semillion and 20% Sauvignon.

→ Average age of the vines: 35 years old.

→ Maturity: within 8 to 25 years depending on the vintage.