1986 Château D’Yquem, Premier Cru Supérieur, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
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Roving Sommelier is passionate about premium quality wines. Château D’Yquem is many wine lovers’ favourite château in Sauternes and has developed a fine reputation internationally, especially with connoisseurs of sweet wines and iconic Bordeaux vineyards. This wine is literally liquid gold.
What is more, over the years, as a top-flight restaurant wine buyer and sommelier, I’ve been very fortunate to get my hands on and taste many vintages of such rare and special wines. These highly prized jewels, amongst others are the cornerstone of my Roving Sommelier Collection.
Château D’Yquem is a Premier Cru Supérieur (“Superior First Growth”) wine from the Sauternes 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, indicating its perceived superiority and higher prices over all other wines of its type. Yquem’s success stems largely from the site’s susceptibility to attack by “noble rot” (a type of infestation by Botrytis Cinerea), which shrivels the grapes so that they look like dried berries, and concentrates the sugars to make them sweet. All late-harvested, botrytis-affected grapes are harvested by hand.
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’ or passes 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.
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.
1986 vintage was regarded as a great one with many top Bordeaux wines especially those in Sauternes. This one has evolved beautifully and is still fairly youthful and is richly flavoured and sweet with good acidity. The 1986 Château D’Yquem is a very memorable wine from one of the best vintages that deserves to be enjoyed on very special occasions and in a convivial atmosphere.
Alcohol: 14% abv (75cl)
Grape variety: Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc
Flavour Profile: Unctuous, Very sweet, Caramelised citrus fruits, Honey, Complex, High acidity