Classification: Great First Growth (Premier Cru Supérieur)
Château d'Yquem is the only wine with the classification of Great First Growth (Premier Cru Supérieur). Yquem is described as the greatest dessert wine in the world and is located on the highest hill in Sauternes. The Château once belonged to Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine and was brought under the English crown by her marriage to Henry Plantagenet, who became King Henry II of England in 1154. Château d'Yquem returned to France at the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453. The Sauvage d'Yquem family owned the Château from 1593 until the 18th Century. In 1785 Françoise-Josephine Sauvage d'Yquem married the godson of Louis XV, Comte Louis Amédée de Lur-Saluces of Château de Fargues. He died just 3 years later after a horse riding accident and the young widow focused on improving the Château and its vineyards. Château d'Yquem has not altered in size since she established it in 1788. She was known as “The Lady Of Yquem” and was responsible for the construction of a new wine cellar in 1826.
The Lur Saluces family continued to improve the quality and prestige of Yquem down the centuries despite the Château being used as a Military Hospital during the First World War. Bertrand de Lur-Saluces steered Château d'Yquem through these difficult times with great skill. He is an important figure in the history of l Bordeaux – he was a co-founder of the Bordeaux Académie du Vin, the Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux, and was president of the Union des Syndicats de Sauternes. Today the Château is owned by LVMH (Louis Vitton - Moet – Hennesy) with Pierre Lurton of Château Cheval Blanc running the estate.
The vineyards of Château d'Yquem stretch over 457 acres between the villages of Sauternes and Fargues and there are a tapestry of soil profiles, predominantly gravel mixed with sand topsoil upon a water retentative clay sub-soil. The grapes grown are 80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes develop 'Noble Rot' (Botrytis Cinera) - the mould does not ruin the grape but instead causes the loss of much of the water content in the berry. The result is a raisin-like berry with extreme concentration of the natural sugars and flavours. On average, only one glass of wine is produced from each vine in the vineyards of d'Yquem. The harvest at Château d'Yquem can last for weeks and involves several passes by up to 150 harvesters. The harvesters pick individual berries rather than the normal process of harvesting entire bunches.
The wines of Château d'Yquem are intensely concentrated and sweet with high levels of acidity to balance out the sweetness. While the wines can be drunk and enjoyed when young, they continue to develop, adding layers of complexity, in the bottle and can be kept for up to 100 years. They have a honied texture and flavours of apricot, passion fruit, tangerine and vanilla.
Owner: LVMH/Bernault Arnault/Albert Frere (also own Chateaux Cheval Blanc, La Tour du Pin and Quinault L'Enclos)
Château website: www.yquem.fr
Oenologist: Sandrine Garbay