When Chateau D’Yquem issues an invitation, it brooks no refusal. A bucket list wine if ever there was one, Chateau D’Yquem is world famous for their exquisite (and expensive) sweet wines.
The launch of the 2019 vintage, hosted at the sumptuously trendy NoMad Hotel, heralds the dawn of a new age for the established wine House and a drive to engage with a younger crowd who enjoy their pleasures in the moment. “There is always a good reason not to open a bottle of Yquem” says Mathieu Jullien, marketing and sales director for LVMH Vins d’Exception, referencing the fact these wines are renowned for their complexity through aging, cellaring for up to 100 years, “but it is at its most universal when it is fresh”.
Urging people to discover these wines in their youth, the 2019 was a supreme advocate. Fresh, vibrant, and served from magnums, it had a zippiness which perfectly balanced the sweetness of the wine. One reason for this was the unusually high (45%) amount of Sauvignon Blanc, its lively aromatic qualities acting as an elegant foil to the richness of the Semillon. The pairing of this with crispy fried chicken was inspired, eliciting murmurs of pleasure from the gleeful guests.
With the goal of making the “best wine possible without worrying about quantity” Sandrine Garbay, winemaker at Yquem for 27 years, explained that one whole vine makes only a single glass of Yquem. Here quality is everything and historically the Estate was owned by one family for over 400 years. When asked how it felt to take over making such an iconic, traditional, and acclaimed wine, Garbay said it was important to respect the “line” but wanted to improve it where possible. Her drive is towards purity and fruitiness, reducing the time spent in oak and adapting the aging process to the identity of the wine each year, rather than using a systematic blanket approach.
The beauty and precision of these superb wines are clear, and we tasted through the delicate and aromatic 2017, the unctuously spiced 1999, and the 2007 whose vintage’s noble rot was pronounced “exceptional” and led to a myriad of overlapping flavours of marmalade, saffron and crystalised ginger. “In 2001 I thought I will see such a vintage one time in my life and never again” said Garbay “but the 2007 is really beautiful, I am very lucky. Two times in my life I will see wine like this”.
Pairing these wines with roast chicken, fish curry, and a citrus salad it was clear there is a move to modernise the image of sweet wine and to bring it to the fore at the dining table and as an aperitif. Yet with half-bottles stretching into the hundreds and the traditional belief that these wines should be aged, how will they turn the tide?
“Everyone should have the opportunity to try a glass of Yquem once in their life” says Jullien, so they have created “a new dawn” teaming up with specially selected “Lighthouses” globally who will invite their guests to enjoy a glass of Yquem 2019 before or during the meal. The London “Lighthouses” offering an exclusive preview before commercial launch are NoMad, Annabels, Portland and Berry Bros & Rudd.
“Yquem is the most elegant way to travel through time” concludes Pierre Lurton, President and CEO. Let the youthful revolution and its revelation commence.