Château d'Yquem, Sauternes Premier Cru Supérieur

Château d'Yquem, Sauternes Premier Cru Supérieur, 1996

  • icon-type Type

    White

  • icon-year Year

    1996

  • icon-style Style

    Sweet

  • icon-country Country

    France

  • icon-alcohollevel Alcohol level

    14%

  • icon-grapevariety Grape variety
    Semillon 80%, Sauvignon Blanc 20%
  • Rating

    JS 95, RP 95

The weather was hot and dry throughout much of the growing season, except for 2 weeks of unexpectedly cool temperatures in September that made for the ideal ripening of grapes that were already in superb condition. Rain arrived at just the right time and soon after it was time to harvest a very homogeneous crop.

This textbook vintage epitomises Yquem's balance, elegance, and sheer class!

About Château d'Yquem

Château d'Yquem is a Premier Cru Supérieur wine from the Sauternes, Gironde region in the southern part of the Bordeaux vineyards known as Graves. In the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, Château d'Yquem was the only Sauternes given this rating. Yquem's success stems largely from the site's susceptibility to attack by "noble rot".

Wines from Château d'Yquem are characterised by their complexity, concentration and sweetness, which is balanced by relatively high acidity. With proper care, a bottle will keep for a century or more, and the fruity overtones will gradually fade and integrate with more complex secondary and tertiary flavours.

Since 1959 (though not every year), Château d'Yquem has also produced a dry white wine called Ygrec (Fr: the letter "Y"), made from an equal blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Since 1968 the château was run by Comte Alexandre de Lur-Saluces, a minority (7%) owner. The Comte inherited a typical annual production of 66,000 bottles a year. After the 1973 oil crisis, demand fell and prices plummeted. The price of a bottle of d'Yquem dropped to 35 francs; prices began to rise only in the 1980s.

Under the Comte's leadership, "tractors replaced horses, collapsing cellars were renovated, and unused acreage was planted", with production in good years reaching 100,000 bottles and sales about $10 million.

Following a bitter family feud and the decision of Eugene de Lur-Saluces (Alexandre's other brother) to sell part of his 47% share of the business, on 28 November 1996, the French luxury goods giant LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton bought 55% of Château d'Yquem from the family of the Comte Alexandre de Lur-Saluces for about $100 million. The Comte, after first challenging the sale in court for over two years, was kept as the manager of the estate.

On 17 May 2004, the Comte retired and was replaced by the current managing director of Château Cheval Blanc, Pierre Lurton. The Comte had been known for being particularly dedicated towards maintaining quality, going so far as to reject an entire batch of the wine if he did not like the results of a randomised testing.

In 2006, a 135-year vertical (containing every vintage from 1860 to 2003) was sold by The Antique Wine Company in London for $1.5 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for a single lot of wine. Also that year, Dior and Château d'Yquem together created a skin care product made from the sap of the Yquem vines.

In July 2011, an 1811 bottle of Château d'Yquem sold for £75,000 ($117,000) at The Ritz Hotel, London to a private collector, Christian Vannequé, to become the most expensive bottle of white wine ever sold.

The vineyard has 126 hectares (310 acres) in the Sauternes appellation, though only 100 hectares (250 acres) are in production at any time. Each year, vines from two to three hectares are grubbed up and left fallow for a year. Since grapes from newly planted vines are not worthy of the chateau name for five to seven years, about 20 hectares are held in reserve each year. The vines consist of 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, though the latter's vigour implies the proportions are more nearly equal in the final wine.

Harvesting is carefully timed, and on average six tries through the vineyard are undertaken each year to ensure that only the botrytized grapes are selected. The yield averages nine hectolitres per hectare (2.5 acres), compared to the usual twelve to twenty hectolitres per hectare in Sauternes. The grapes are pressed three times and transferred to oak barrels for maturation over a period of about three years.

On average, 65,000 bottles are produced each year. In a poor vintage, the entire crop is deemed unworthy of bearing the Château's name and sold anonymously; this happened nine times in the 20th century: 1910, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1974, and 1992 and in the 21st century one time: 2012.

Grape variety
Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety that originates from the Bordeaux region of France. The grape most likely gets its name from the French words sauvage ("wild") and Blanc ("white") due to its early origins as an indigenous grape in South West France. It is possibly a descendant of Savagnin. Sauvignon Blanc is planted in many of the world's wine regions, producing a crisp, dry, and refreshing white varietal wine. The grape is also a component of the famous dessert wines from Sauternes and Barsac. Sauvignon Blanc is widely cultivated in France, Chile, Romania, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bulgaria, the states of Washington and California in the US. Some New World Sauvignon Blancs, particularly from California, may also be called "Fumé Blanc", a marketing term coined by Robert Mondavi in reference to Pouilly-Fumé.

Depending on the climate, the flavour can range from aggressively grassy to sweetly tropical. In cooler climates, the grape has a tendency to produce wines with noticeable acidity and "green flavours" of grass, green bell peppers and nettles with some tropical fruit (such as passion fruit) and floral (such as elderflower) notes. In warmer climates, it can develop more tropical fruit notes but risks losing much aroma from over-ripeness, leaving only slight grapefruit and tree fruit (such as peach) notes.

Wine experts have used the phrase "crisp, elegant, and fresh" as a favourable description of Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley and New Zealand. Sauvignon Blanc, when slightly chilled, pairs well with fish or cheese, particularly chèvre. It is also known as one of the few wines that can pair well with sushi.

Along with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screw-cap in commercial quantities, especially by New Zealand producers. The wine is usually consumed young, as it does not particularly benefit from aging, as varietal Sauvignon Blancs tend to develop vegetal aromas reminiscent of peas and asparagus with extended aging. Dry and sweet white Bordeaux, including oak-aged examples from Pessac-Léognan and Graves, as well as some Loire wines from Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre are some of the few examples of Sauvignon Blancs with aging potential

Winemakers in New Zealand and Chile harvest the grapes at various intervals for the different blending characteristics that the grape can impart depending on its ripeness levels. At its most unripe stage, the grape is high in malic acid. As it progresses further towards ripeness the grape develops red & green pepper flavours and eventually achieves a balance of sugars. The flavours characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc come from the chemicals methoxypyrazines. Grapes grown in Marlborough's Wairau Valley may exhibit different levels of ripeness over the vineyard, caused by slight unevenness in the land and giving a similar flavour profile to the resulting wine.

Sauvignon Blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking process. One decision is the amount of contact that the must has with the skins of the grape. In the early years of the New Zealand wine industry, there were no wineries in the South Island, which meant that freshly harvested grapes had to be trucked and then ferried to the North Island, often all the way up to Auckland. This allowed for prolonged exposure of the skins and juice which sharpened the intensity and pungency of the wine. Some winemakers, like the Loire, intentionally leave a small amount of must to spend some time in contact with the skin for later blending purposes. Other winemakers, like in California, generally avoid any contact with the skin due to the reduced aging ability of the resulting wine.

Another important decision is the temperature of fermentation. French winemakers prefer warmer fermentations (around 16-18 °C) that bring out the mineral flavours in the wine while New World winemakers prefer slightly colder temperatures to bring out more fruit and tropical flavours. A small minority of Loire winemakers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation, a practice more often associated with New Zealand wines. Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with the oak rounding out the flavours and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape. Some winemakers, like those in New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation tanks over barrels with the intention of maintaining the sharp focus and flavour intensity.

Alternative Names: Fumé Blanc, Sauvignon Bianco, Muskat-Silvaner, Muskat-Sylvaner

Sémillon

Sémillon is a golden-skinned grape used to make dry and sweet white wines, mostly in France and Australia. Its thin skin and susceptibility to botrytis make it dominate the sweet wine region Sauternes AOC and Barsac AOC.

Sémillon, which is relatively easy to cultivate, consistently produces six to eight tons of grapes per acre from its vigorous vines. It is fairly resistant to disease, except for rot. The grape ripens early, when, in warmer climates, it acquires a pinkish hue. Since the grape has a thin skin, there is also a risk of sunburn in hotter climates; it is best suited to areas with sunny days and cool nights.

The Sémillon grape is rather heavy, with low acidity and an almost oily texture. It has a high yield and wines based on it can age a long time. Along with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, Sémillon is one of only three approved white wine varieties in the Bordeaux region.

The grape is also key to the production of sweet wines such as Sauternes. For the grapes to be used for sweet wine production, they need to have been affected by Botrytis (also known as "noble rot"). This fungus dries out the grapes, thus concentrating the sugar and flavours in the grape berry.

Alternative Names: Malaga, Chevrier, Columbier, Blanc Doux, Wyndruif

About Sauternes

Sauternes, 40 miles (65km) south of Bordeaux city, is a village famous for its high-quality sweet wines. Although some wineries here produce dry wines, they sell them under appellations other than the sweet-specific Sauternes appellation. The village is surrounded on all sides by vineyards, the best of which produce some of the world's most prestigious, long-lived and expensive dessert wines. A half-bottle of top-quality, aged Sauternes wine from a good vintage can command prices in excess of $1000.

The classic Sauternes wine has an intense golden colour (darker than most other dessert wines), which turns a deep amber as it ages in bottle. The aromas include blossom and stone fruit, with a hint of honeysuckle – the trademark of botrytized wines. The best wines balance sweetness with acidity, concentration with freshness, and power with elegance.

Sauternes' wines are made mostly from the Semillon grape variety, which accounts for about eight in every 10 vines in the local vineyards. Sauvignon Blanc accounts for much of the remaining vineyard area and is the dominant variety in just a small handful of Sauternes wines. Semillon forms a broad, well-structured base with aromas of beeswax and apricot, while Sauvignon Blanc brings its trademark herbal aromatics and sufficient acidity to keep the resulting wine fresh rather than palate-cloying. This pair (which are sometimes complemented by a tiny amount of Muscadelle and Sauvignon Gris) have become the preferred varieties here not only because they are also used to make Bordeaux's dry whites, but because of their susceptibility to a particular kind of fungus, Botrytis cinerea (often just botrytis).

Other than yeasts, without which grape juice could not ferment into wine, one might not expect a fungus to play a key role in winemaking. And yet the distinctive Sauternes wine style is entirely dependent on this particular fungus strain. Under adverse conditions, Botrytis cinerea causes grapes to rot and disintegrate, further exposing their flesh and juice to all manner of other fungi and bacteria. In this form, it is known as "grey rot", and leads to sour, unpleasant aromas in wine. But when botrytis spores land on healthy grapes under favourable weather conditions, they have quite a different effect, and develop into benevolent "noble rot".

Noble rot develops most reliably in areas where morning mists, which allow the fungus to thrive, are followed by warm, dry afternoons that dry the grapes out and prevent the development of grey rot. When repeated over a number of weeks, this process gradually dries the grapes, reducing their water content and naturally concentrating their sugars and flavour compounds. The result is intensely sweet, flavour-rich juice. In autumn, Sauternes and its neighbours Barsac, Bommes, Fargues and Preignac have exactly these climatic conditions, thanks to the warming and cooling of air around the nearby River Ciron.

The Sauternes appellation laws state that grapes may be picked only when their must weight reaches 221 grams per litre (the minimum for regular, dry Bordeaux Blanc wines is just 162g/L). Because not all these abundant sugars are fermented into alcohol, the finished wine contains naturally high levels of residual sugar. In good vintages, nature needs no help getting grapes to such high levels of sweetness, but in poor vintages, winemakers turn to cryoextraction and even chaptalisation to achieve this. Cryoextraction involves freezing the grapes before they are pressed, which reduces the amount of water in the resulting juice. Chaptalisation – the addition of sugar or artificially concentrated grape juice – is permitted only in poor vintages and, even then, only to a limited extent.

Regular price $2,110.00

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This is a wine from our Overseas - In Bond Collection. The wine is quoted as a price in S$ for purchase and transfer into a UK bonded warehouse. The purchase price is a duty/tax free price and does not include delivery to Singapore. Please contact us below if you wish to enquire delivery or storage options for a wine from our Overseas - In Bond Collection to Singapore or elsewhere.

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