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2020 Château d'Yquem

Released this morning at £795 per three bottles in bond, we are eagerly awaiting the key critics' scores for 2020 Château d'Yquem.  At time of writing, only Lisa Perotti-Brown MW has published her score, awarding 97+ points, (identical to her score for the 2019).  

The 2020 growing season in Sauternes saw lots of rain early on in the spring, which helped to mitigate the warm summer, but overall yields were low for the third year in a row (12hl/ha on average and as low as 3hl/ha at some châteaux!).

Across the appellation, the late summer saw low humidity levels, which did not encourage the development of botrytis.  The harvest was long and slow, extending into November at many properties.  Years with less botrytis rely on the grapes drying slowly on the vine to concentrate them ('passerillage')

Yquem's slightly elevated terroir was an asset in 2020, encouraging airflow which increased the fruit concentration.  A blend of 75% Semillon and 25% Sauvignon Blanc, the final yield in 2020 was 10hl/ha.  The finished wine has 135 g/l of residual sugar, versus 138 g/l in 2019.

This kind of vintage produces racy, energetic wines with excellent acidity, singing with complex fruit and floral notes, as style which some Sauternes lovers prefer over the ginger, honey, and wet sticking plaster aromas of strong botrytis years. 

With the harvest 30% below the 2019 level, 2020 will be one of the smallest releases on record, hence stocks are very limited.  Please let us know as soon as possible if you would like to order.

2020 offered ex-château, expected spring 2024.

 
Château d'Yquem

Producer Profile

Château d'Yquem

Château d'Yquem occupies a special place for us, as it probably does for many wine lovers.  To understand why, your first port of call might be some words we posted recently about the role of botrytis in producing great dessert wines.  No wine is more able to capture the landscape and weather of a given year in liquid form and preserve it for many decades, or even centuries.   

Yquem's history dates to the 15th century when the estate was owned by the Sauvage family.  Wine was probably first produced in the 16th century, but the first vineyard records date to 1711.  Famously, Thomas Jefferson described it as "the best white wine of France ", ordering 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage, although at this stage it was still a dry wine. 

The Lur-Saluces family owned Chateau d'Yquem for over two centuries and during that time, they helped to establish the style of wine which Sauternes is known for today, including techniques like late-harvesting, successive 'tries' or passes through the vineyard, and the intentional cultivation of botrytis.  They also established a reputation for producing the highest quality and their wines were in high demand by royalty and aristocrats throughout Europe.  In 1855, the estate was classified as a Premier Cru Supérieur, the only wine to receive this recognition (the other top estates are merely 'Premier Cru' without the 'Superieur' designation!).  The estate prospered until phylloxera struck Bordeaux and it suffered further during the First World War. 

Comte Alexandre de Lur-Saluces oversaw the sale of Yquem to LVMH in 1999.  Pierre Lurton took over as Managing Director in 2004 and remains at the helm here, as well as at Cheval Blanc.  In 2020 Lorenzo Pasquini became Yquem's Estate Manager.

Yquem's 113-hectare estate is planted to 100 hectares of vines, with many old vines.  An ongoing re-planting program sees 2-3 hectares of old vines replanted each year.  It takes five years for new vines to come into production, so 12 hectares are out of production at any one time.  Fruit from a further 20 hectares is kept back from the grand vin, as the vines reach the age to attain sufficient quality.  Yquem is famous for the obsessive level of quality control and high costs of labour, with multiple tries at harvest, sometimes picking individual grapes as they reach the correct level of botrytisation. 

Unlike at other estates, there is no second wine.  If the vintage is not good enough, no Yquem is made!  Alexandre de Lur-Saluces was famous for this approach, for instance in 1910, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1974, and 1992.  Pierre Lurton followed in his footsteps with the 2012 vintage.   

To attest to this wine's longevity, we are currently listing some bottles of 1893 Yquem, and here is Jancis Robinson's note for the greatest-known Yquem vintage, the 1811, which she tasted in 2006:

"A quite amazing wine, served blind with 1831, 1911 and 1931 it was the most intense, yet least evolved of the lot. Deep amber with green gold rim. So vibrant and multilayered on the nose, it smelt as though it was just starting to unfold, yet was utterly convincing about the treasures it had yet to give up. Spicy and rich and so, so piercingly clean. Racy, long piercing essence of cream and spice. Very, very powerful, long and complete. After 40 minutes in the glass it took on a hint of rum toffees which is not a flavour I happen to like (c.f. the greater delicacy of the 1847) but that is the only criticism I could possibly muster. This is presumably a one-off and probably deserves an even higher ranking than the 1847. 25 and still a great deal to give. I hope very much to have a chance to taste it again before I die.  20 points."

WHITE 2020 Château d'Yquem Magnum £530 per bottle Château d'Yquem
2020 / / Magnum
£530 per bottle
IB
WHITE 2020 Château d'Yquem Half bottle £795 per case of 6 Château d'Yquem
2020 / / Half bottle
£795 per case of 6
IB
WHITE 2020 Château d'Yquem 75cl £795 per case of 3 Château d'Yquem
2020 / / 75cl
£795 per case of 3
IB
WHITE 2020 Château d'Yquem 75cl £1,590 per case of 6 Château d'Yquem
2020 / / 75cl
£1,590 per case of 6
IB

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