Tasting Reviews

Chateau d’Yquem 2004 and 1998

Over the years, there’s one wine that I feel I must taste annually, just to remind me what fine wine is all about. And that’s Chateau d’Yquem. Of course it’s expensive, so if it’s just Sue and I tasting and drinking it, a 375 ml bottle is more than adequate. I’ve been privileged to attend the four stupendous vertical tastings of Ch. d’Yquem held by Dunedin wine lovers Chris and Cheryl Staynes (click here to see my notes from the 2013 – 1950 tasting held in 2016). And this year, we had a visit by Jean-Philippe Lemoine from Ch d’Yquem conduct a wine and food matched dinner at the QY Museum Hotel in August. 5 vintages were served, along with the ‘Y’, the dry bottling (click here to see my notes).

So it was almost a bolt out of the blue when we were contacted to see if we’d partake in enjoying two bottles of different vintages together with Chris Murphy, an avid Wellington wine enthusiast of nearly 40 years, his partner and two mutual friends – with appropriate food – and at our home! Chris and his partner Debbie also attended the QT Museum Hotel tasting and dinner, so it would have been that which reminded them of us! Chris brought the 2004 and 1998 vintages – all in pristine condition and still in their tissue wrap, along with Riedel ‘Sommelier’ Sauternes stemware. I can vouch for their ability to show the wines off superbly.

Chris specifically chose these two vintages to compare a wine from the Lur-Saluces family ownership with one that was made under the ownership of LVMH. Chris feels the wines from the earlier period are richer, and possibly more complex. My own view is that those made recently are more refined and detailed, and that they will develop the richness of the earlier wines with bottle-age. We both agreed that more research needed to be done…

The Wine and the Vintages
The wine’s varietal proportions follow that of the vineyard, being approx. 75% Semillon and 25% Sauvignon Blanc. There may be up to a dozen vineyard passes to pick the botrytised fruit in the preferred state. The fruit is fermented in new oak to an ideal of 13.5% alc. and around 125 g/L RS, the wine spending 36-42 months in the barrels. Right through the vinification process, selections are made, and it may only be 25% of the pick that makes the grand vin.
2004 is regarded as a very good, but more elegant vintage. I’ve personally loved the 2004s across the Sauternes board for their freshness, elegance and accessibility. The balance of the 2004s is particularly appealing as is their freshness. My tastings of Ch. Yquem 2004 have yielded consistent scores from me. 1998 is also another good year. Not great, as rain interrupted the picking into two halves, but the botrytis infection was strong. I must admit it hasn’t been my favourite vintage, sitting next to the outstanding 1997, and my notes seem to reflect this, though the bottles I’ve tasted may not have been the best. Following are my notes on the wines. They were served one at a time, the 2004 first, followed by the 1998, and we had the opportunity of going back several times to re-look at the wines. www.yquem.fr

Ch. d’Yquem Sauternes 2004
Bright, light golden-hued yellow colour with very good depth, a little lighter on the rim. The nose is rich with ripe aromas of yellow stonefruits, tropical fruits and marmalade, melded with honey and waxy lanolin indicative of the Semillon, and hints of nutty oak. Nectar and an amalgam of florals and botrytis sit in the background. This is very elegant in proportion, still quite primary and youthfully fresh, but offers immediate accessibility. Very sweet to taste and fullish bodied, the palate is one of elegance, freshness and stylishness, with fine detail, showing honey and waxy fruit wonderfully melded together, marmalade with subtle nutty notes and delicate botrytis all in balance and harmony. There is a fine phenolic-textured line that tempers the unctuousness, and soft acidity lends approachability. This is an elegant and refined wine, still remarkably youthful, with its complexities yet to develop, but decadent in its own right. An easy 20+ years ahead of it. 14.0% alc. 19.5-/20 Dec 2018 RRP $N/A

Ch, d’Yquem Sauternes 1998
Full, golden-yellow colour with a suggestion of orange and some depth, a little lighter edged. The bouquet is full with plenty of presence, initially a little shy in expression, but unveiling aromas of ripe tropical fruits and wild honey, a little burnished with barley-sugar elements along with notes of caramel and toffee, all entwined with savoury orange marmalade, orange blossom and musky botrytis with some lanolin-like Semillon fruit still apparent. The nutty oak is integrating. The aromatics build in depth and intensity with aeration. Very sweet to taste and fullish-bodied, the palate is fulsome with very good depth and density, with packed flavours of ripe tropical fruits and wild honey, along with caramel, toffee and barley sugar notes, with savoury crystallised fruits and nutty oak. This has a strong and positive palate with power and concentration along with the beginnings of secondary complexities. This is lush, unctuous and soft-textured, but balanced by acid cut and alcohol drive. This has a seriousness and gravitas, and will unfold more complexity over the next 10+ years. 13.5% alc. 19.5/20 Dec 2018 RRP $N/A
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