In the temple of Sauternes

A preview tasting of the 2014 vintage of Château d’Yquem, a myth in French oenology

13-06-2015
Château d’Yquem: a unique territory from which,

Château d’Yquem: a unique territory from which, with obsessive care, only the best grapes are selected to produce a true icon wine

On the occasion of Vinexpo the town of Bordeaux livens up with the greatest protagonists in the wine world, meeting here to share all the wine novelties from the planet. We move only 40 km from the region’s capital and arrive in Sauternes. It’s a region in Southern France, a small town, but most of all Sauternes is a name that leads us to think to the unmatchable sweet wine, among the ones with the greatest ageing potential in the world.

It is a unique, golden nectar, only produced in this area, described as the «le raisin d’or», the golden grape, due to the preciousness of each bunch, since to make a glass of Sauternes you need the classic «pied de vigne». Compared to the chaos of Bordeaux, there’s a fairy-tale alternating of vineyards, castles and rural buildings. The most famous 100 hectares in the world belong to Château d’Yquem, the largest producer of this wine which since 1999 is owned by luxury giant LVMH.

Yquem
is the only wine region outside Bordeaux’s Mèdoc, classified in 1855 and left unchanged, with the specifically created Premier Cru Supérieur, an appellation created for this very legendary wine. On a good year, Château d’Yquem can produce around 120,000 bottles while in so-called unhappy years, production is zero. This was recently the case in 2012 when not even a drop was bottled.

A detail of the renovated staircase at Yquem

A detail of the renovated staircase at Yquem

When you arrive on the main road, from which you can get a glimpse of the castle, you immediately perceive that time, in Sauternes is the main element to understand, appreciate and most of all dose the relationship with this outsider of world oenology. Mobile rings, car noises and murmuring people are pleasantly merged in an endless, pleasant silence, a total absence of noises that you can feel regardless of the weather at Yquem.

The recent renovation of the cellar and the tasting room reveals a renewed Yquem with contemporary materials, in a refined mixture of wood, copper, glass. A pleasant lunch with Sandrine Garbay, the oenologist of this myth for the past twenty years or so, gives us the chance to ask her what has changed at Yquem over the last few years: «Besides the recent renovation, I’d say we always work with the enthusiasm that allows us to create a legend in the glasses. When I started to work here I had just graduated from Bordeaux’s school of oenology and it was the very count Alexandre de Lur Saluces who summoned me here. At first I thought it was a joke, as the fact a young oenologist would receive a call from the great Château d’Yquem could only be a dream, yet here I am».

Sandrine Garbay, for twenty years now the oenologist at Yquem

Sandrine Garbay, for twenty years now the oenologist at Yquem

Vintage after vintage, Sandrine shares the pleasantness of being a part of a great family, together with director Pierre Lurton – a famous person coming from a world-renowned Bordeaux wine-producing family and the previous director at Cheval Blanc in Saint-Émilion – and the rest of the team.

Then we arrive at the preview of the 2014 vintage which Sandrine thus describes: «A wine with a great acidity from a very long harvest, that lasted as many as 9 weeks, with 25% of the grapes picked before 15th September, the genesis of this rare and precious freshness and concentration, much similar to the great 2011 vintage. There are notes of ginger and white-pulped fruits, a light colour and a range of aromas confirming its supreme elegance». A perfect synthesis that expresses a truly great wine: now we can only wait.


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