Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 1999
In the genealogy of Lur Saluces, there are three branches to be considered : the "Lur", the "Saluces", the "Sauvage". The archives of the Domain allow us to get back in the family's history until 990.
The "Lur" originate from Franconie (Fruin de Lur lived in Limousin in 990, while the "Saluces" branch comes from the Marquisate of Saluzzo in the Piedmont).
Under Louis XVI, in 1785 exactly, the domain of Yquem came into the Lur-Saluces family by the marriage of Françoise Joséphine de Sauvage, the "Lady of Yquem", with Louis Amédée de Lur Saluces, colonel of Penthièvre dragons (who was a godson of Louis XV and Lady Victoire de France).
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Medium gold in color, the 1999 d'Yquem has shed its puppy fat and transformed into compelling cinnamon toast, creme caramel and cashew notions with emerging notes of beurre blanc, honeycomb, ginger snaps and praline over a core of peach preserves and apple pie. The palate is softly spoken with a refreshing backbone carrying loads of delicate savory and stone fruit preserves nuances to a long, beautifully restrained finish. At the 20-year mark, this wine is in the midst of its ideal drinking window, and while I hasten to add that there is no rush to drink up, there’s also no need to delay your gratification either. The alcohol this vintage is 13.8%, while the residual sugar is 128 grams per liter, and the total acidity is 4.5 grams per liter of H2SO4.
Count Alexandre de Lur Saluces has followed in his Uncle Betrand's footsteps since 1968. Highly motivated to perfect this prestigious product while respecting tradition, he is determined to offer maximum quality. All those who love this inimitable wine, from Jefferson to Pamela Harriman, former U.S. Ambassador, by way of great Duke Constantine, have approved this philosophy from vintage to vintage.
Yquem is the result of painstaking efforts by everyone who works on the estate. However, nature is the major factor in making the most of the rare soil of Yquem.
Sweet and unctuous but delightfully charming, the finest Sauternes typically express flavors of exotic dried tropical fruit, candied apricot, dried citrus peel, honey or ginger and a zesty beam of acidity.
Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle are the grapes of Sauternes. But Sémillon's susceptibility to the requisite noble rot makes it the main variety and contributor to what makes Sauternes so unique. As a result, most Sauternes estates are planted to about 80% Sémillon. Sauvignon is prized for its balancing acidity and Muscadelle adds aromatic complexity to the blend with Sémillon.
Botrytis cinerea or “noble rot” is a fungus that grows on grapes only in specific conditions and its onset is crucial to the development of the most stunning of sweet wines.
In the fall, evening mists develop along the Garonne River, and settle into the small Sauternes district, creeping into the vineyards and sitting low until late morning. The next day, the sun has a chance to burn the moisture away, drying the grapes and concentrating their sugars and phenolic qualities. What distinguishes a fine Sauternes from a normal one is the producer’s willingness to wait and tend to the delicate botrytis-infected grapes through the end of the season.
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.