Château d’Yquem 1976-2007 and some other wines

Earlier this spring I held a tasting of Château d’Yquem. Since I had more interested participants than the number I had seats for, I had to say no to a few thirsty souls, and I also knew that the date didn’t fit some people. This meant that it looked possible to do a sort of a rerun of the same theme in the same season, despite this being a slightly pricey tasting. I wasn’t doing this just to be nice, though. I wanted to expand my Yquem experience by including some other vintages in tasting #2. As it happens, two of the participants in tasting #1 also wanted to participate in #2.

I won’t repeat the background information on Yquem that was included in the blog post I wrote about tasting #1. Instead, I will jump directly to the wines. So be welcome to read this post if you wish to know some additional background first.

In a late stage in my planning, it turned out that this tasting (which happened in May) coincided with a spectacular Selosse tasting in Gothenburg, that drew some of my wine tasting friends in Stockholm. In order to compensate those who still went to my Yquem tasting, I included a bottle of Selosse as a warming-up. My idea was that we could say that we actually tasted both Selosse and Yquem, while those that went west only got to taste Selosse, and that’s obviously only half as good. 😉

Yquem 20130504 torra

Selosse Initial
100% Chardonnay, disgorged October 2010

Appearance: bright yellow, medium mousse
Nose: ripe yellow apples, some peach, mineral, a hint of flowers, some oak and spice notes, somewhat white Burgundy-like.
Palate: green and yellow apple, high acidity, mineral, very fresh, with a long and fresh aftertaste.
Summary: some development in the nose and very fresh on the palate, a bit on the lean side for an Initial. Fully enajoyable now, but could stand more cellaring, 91 p.

Then we tasted two dry white wines, served blind. For both this mini-flight and the sweet flight, we voted by show of hands before the bottles were revealed.

La Croix de Carbonnieux 2009
The white second wine of Château Carbonnieux, a Pessac-Léognan. 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Sémillion.

Appearance: light yellow
Nose: citrus, nettle, grass, yellow and green apple, some mineral, some spice and wool, discrete oak barrel notes. Rather typical Sauvignon Blanc nose.
Palate: citrus, high acidity, mineral, some grapefruit bitterness, aftertaste with grapefruit.
Summary: rather light but fresh, 87 p

1 best vote.

Y 2008
The dry white wine of Château d’Yquem, a Bordeaux blanc. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Sémillion.

Appearance: medium yellow
Nose: ripe yellow fruit, yellow apple, yellow plum, some honey, oak, hints of mineral, some spice notes, slightly “oily” nose.
Palate: full bodied, ripe yellow fruit, slightly oily and viscous, high acidity, a hint of grapefruit bitterness, strong minerality, some spice, good weight. Long, spicy and fresh aftertaste.
Summary: quite foody, but still with good minerality and freshness. 91 p

12 best votes, including mine.

Yquem 20130504 glas

The sweet flight consisted of seven wines:

Yquem 20130504 2 sötaChâteau Menota 2009
Graves Supérieures, 60% Sémillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Muscadelle. 88 g/l residual sweetness.

Appearance: bright yellow
Nose: discrete with yellow fruit, apple, pear, some botrytis?
Palate: sweet, botrytis, pear, slightly sharp and disjointed impression, alcoholic aftertaste, not as concentrated fruit.
Summary: in one sense a lot of “fake Sauternes” for its low price, but not as impressive in this vintages, because the balance is lacking. 84 p

No best votes, 11 worst votes including mine. It can be a lot of fun to include a much simpler reference wine in a prestige tasting such as this, in order to really see how good the best wines are. This is a cheap sweet Bordeaux, but one that can be quite OK in some vintages.

Château de Fargues 2007
Sauternes. 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 134 g/l residual sweetness.

Appearance: golden yellow
Nose: botrytis, spicy honey, dried apricots, spice notes. Powerful, rather young, rather elegant and botrytis-dominated.
Palate: very sweet, viscous, dried apricots, concentrated aromas, very spicy, good acidity.
Summary: massive and spicy style. Rather young, but approachable, 94(+) p

2 best votes, no worst votes. Many thought this was an Yquem, and I don’t blame them. In this top vintage, de Fargues is at approximately the level that can be expected from an Yquem in an average vintage, but it is stylistically a bit different from the 2007 Yquem. I included de Fargues because they’re one of approximately a quartet (the other being Climens, Suduiraut och Rieussec) that compete for the rank of being second best after Yquem, and also because the owner is the previous owner of Yquem. 2007 is a top vintage  for Sauternes, and in my opinion the best vintage of the period 2002-2009. 2001 and 2010 are also top vintages.

Yquem 20130504 flaskor

Château d’Yquem 2007
80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 134 g/l residual sweetness.

Appearance: golden yellow
Nose: botrytis, zest, honey, flowery and powerful. Grand and elegant, but young. More citrus and elegance than 2007 de Fargues, and less spice.
Palate: very sweet, viscous, dried apricots, honey, citrus, menthol notes, high acidity, very long and fresh aftertaste.
Summary: extremely elegant, more fresh style than the 2007 de Fargues. Young but approachable, 98+ p

2 worst votes including mine, no worst votes. Likely the best young Yquem on the market for the moment.

Château d’Yquem 1996
80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc

Appearance: deep golden yellow
Nose: dried apricots, botrytis, noticeably spicy, honey, saffron, some solvent notes (definitely not disturbing). Some development, good balance.
Palate: very sweet, viscous, loads of honey, dried apricots, spice, good acidity, good concentration, long and fresh aftertaste.
Summary: rather mature, can take more but has probably peaked, 97 p

6 best votes, no worst vote. Probably appealed to many because of a perfect combination of some youthfulness and mature notes, without excessive oxidation or any signs of age or storage issues. The Yquem winemaker recommends drinking Yquem from about 15 years of age, but cautions that it can be in a slightly dumb phase at around 10 years of age. This one was just under 17 and quite brilliant, similar to the 1997 at the last tasting and a lone 1995 at a tasting late last year (bonus tasting note at the end). So I tend to agree with her. The exception can be very high acid vintages such as 1988, probably 2001 and perhaps 2007, that likely need a longer time to mature. If this bottle is representative, 1996 is a very good buy since it is not that very expensive on the market. European averge price according to Wine-Searcher is 230 euro (exclusive tax).

Château d’Yquem 1989
80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc.

Appearance: dark golden yellow, some amber
Nose: botrytis, dried apricots, candied fruit, some solvent notes (not disturbing, but more than in the 1996), spice, some saffron. More “muted” nose than the 1996.
Palate: very sweet, viscous, dried apricots, zest, botrytis, high acidity, honey, spice, very concentrated. Quite good aftertaste of medium length.
Summary: the palate is quite fantastic, the nose not quite at the same level. Fully developed, 97 p

1 best vote, no worst vote.

At the last tasting, the 1989 unfortunately had a cork taint, although not of the “direct kill” variety. I therefore included the 1989 in this tasting as well. The cork of this bottle was slightly difficult since it was somewhat dried-out and brittle, which indicates that the bottle had been stored under too dry conditons (it was an auction purchase). Possibly, the colour was a bit darker than it could be. Then again, 1989 is a hot vintage, and those tend to darken earlier. This time around, the wine was in good condition despite the cork, but I don’t rule out that the 1989 could be even a little better from a perfectly stored bottle.

Château d’Yquem 1986
80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc

Appearance: dark golden yellow
Nose: spicy honey, dried apricots, botrytis, saffron, some solvent or glue notes, some cellar and oxidation notes (of a type that can be fund in completely different old wines, such as really old Riesling) that decreased with time.
Palate: very sweet, viscous, spice, dried apricots, botrytis, good acidity, very concentrated, aftertaste with menthol.
Summary: some funky elements in the nose, otherwise spicy and massive style. 95 p?

1 best vote, 1 worst vote.

Unfortunately a murky cork, which could explain the funky elements in the nose. The fill level was top shoulder (ts), which usually should not mean too much of a problem for a 27 year old wine.

Château d’Yquem 1976
80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc

Appearance: amber with golden edge.
Nose: caramel, dried apricots, other candied and dried fruit, botrytis, spice, overripe banana, fudge, nuts. (Initially some of those funky notes shown by the 1986, but it was reduced with time in the glass.)
Palate: caramel, fudge, dried apricot, botrytis, good acidity, nutty notes.
Summary: slightly funkt notes in the nose, but massive and spicy. 94 p

1 best and 1 worst votes.

From the start I knew it was something of a gamble to include this bottle. It came with the comment that the fill level was good, but had a colour darker than common for a 1976. On the other hand, the price was adjusted down compared to what perfect 1976s tend to cost. It rested for a couple of weeks in my wine fridge before the tasting. When I picked it out the day before the tasting I found a few small drops of dark goo on the capsule and on the styrofoam it was packed in. The transport had apparently made the cork start leaking a little, and it seems reasonable to assume that it had not been completely air-tight earlier, explaining the dark colour. When I opened it, the level was still top shoulder (ts), but the cork was murky. An exiting bottle and a great experience also in this condition, but the 1976 top vintage of Yquem can definitely be better and less oxidised.

Yquem 20130504 korkar

As can be seen from my notes and scores, this was a fabulous tasting and we were saved from cork taint, but it must be admitted: at least two of the bottles (1986 and 1976) weren’t quite in top condition due to their corks, and also a third (1989) could perhaps a have been a little better. That 1996, a rather young vintage when we’re talking Yquem, received so many best votes is in itself a sign of this. I can also mention that these three bottles came from three different sources, and two of them have been the source of other bottles with no cork issues. If the two tasting are seen together, it has been the 1980s vintages that have suffered somewhat from bottle conditions (one cork taint, one murky cork and a possible question mark), which have made the issue-free 1990s vintages to shine more in comparison, although they are cheaper.

Thus, a tasting with these vintages and bottles in perfect condition could have been even more fabulous. I point this out in case anyone is curious when I plan to score a wine 99 or 100. One answer is, for a mature Yquem from a really good vintage, and from a bottle in perfect condition. 🙂

Finally an additional but short tasting note, a wine which I didn’t blog about, and which was included in a tasting late last year:

Tasted November 2012:

Château d’Yquem 1995
80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc

Appearance: golden yellow, some amber hue.
Nose: dried fruit, spice, botrytis, red berries, volatile acidity in the shape of some glue notes.
Palate: enormous concentration, botrytis, dried berries, good acidity.
Summary: quite a lot of power, fully developed, 94 p.

1995 isn’t that expensive. A contributing reason is that the 1995 never received a Robert Parker note, which means that it is off the radar scope for many buyers, who may even consider it together with the weak Sauternes vintages 1991-1994 (1992 was so bad that no Yquem was produced). However, this is not the case at all, since 1995 is of a “good standard quality” for an Yquem. However, judging from this bottle, the 1995 is more developed than the 1996.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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One Response to Château d’Yquem 1976-2007 and some other wines

  1. Pingback: Château d’Yquem – 2011 versus 2004 | Tomas's wine blog

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