Most of us will never taste Château d’Yquem, world standard in Sauternes—the unfortified sweet white wine from the Graves region of Bordeaux.
At $150 for a recent-vintage 375 ml bottle (half size of standard bottle), Yquem Sauternes saucily saunter past most pocketbooks. If you really want to show off, pick up a 1855 vintage in the $186,000 ballpark or a 1893 vintage at $12,000.
No one, however, will taste the 2012 vintage. Yquem did not bottle a 2012.
Bad weather at critical crop points doomed Yquem’s 250 acres in 2012. When you are the best in the world, you don’t put your label on stuff that is not the best in the world. So Yquem did not.
“We tried everything possible, but nature didn’t give us a choice,” laments Yquem’s managing director, Pierre Lurton.
Yquem’s “inferior” juice was sold off in bulk. Inferior Yquem could still be among the best juice some négotiants (wine merchants who buy grapes/juice and make/bottle under their own label) are privileged to work with, so Yquem’s 2012 fruit will not entirely go to waste.
Yquem last passed on vintages in 1992 and 1974. Doing so in 2012 means Yquem walked away from $33 million in finished wine sales. Dedication to quality is one of the admirable qualities of quality producers. Like the wines they make, Yquem takes a long view. Wine factories focus on quarterly earning reports, Yquem on centuries.
This column often sides with decent value and drinkable wine, as opposed to over over-the-top squandering of your trust fund or credit card limit. This does not mean there is no place for excellence. Château d’Yquem holds that place, and this year demonstrates the price paid to keep it. Bravo for them.
• Chateau Gravas Sauternes 2008. Exotic fruit, silky long finish; “value buy” in category. $20 (375 ml)
• Château d’Yquem Sauternes 2002. Honey, oak, tropical fruits & flowers; concentrated opulence. $145 (375 ml)
• Château d’Yquem Sauternes 1834. Considered perfect vintage; youthful to those who have tasted. Wine Spectator 100 points. Independent purchase only; if you ask about price, you cannot afford it.
Last round: At my age I need glasses. A flute for sparkling wine, a small glass for white wine, and a big glass for red wine.