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CHÂTEAU D’YQUEM: AN EPIC JOURNEY INTO THE TERROIR OF THE GOLDEN NECTAR

Updated: May 2







SUMMARY

This post recounts our immersive experience at Château d'Yquem, highlighting the details of the visit, including the discovery of the vineyards, tasting in the private lounge, and exploration of the cellar. Visitors are welcomed by a passionate host and have the opportunity to learn more about the history and winemaking of the estate.


Let us take you on a sensory journey into the heart of Château d’Yquem, a legendary vineyard located in Sauternes, France. Imagine yourself strolling through golden vineyards, breathing in the fragrant air of ripe grapes, and uncovering the secrets of this divine nectar.


The Morning Awakening

Our day began early, with the rising sun bathing the vineyards in a golden light. The road leading to Chateau d'Yquem was beautiful, but the journey rather short, as we were staying at the stunning Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey (see our post on the lodging experience), neighboring Chateau d'Yquem.



Upon arrival at the estate, we were greeted by our host, a passionate young man whose eyes sparkled as he recounted the history of the Chateau and Yquem wines. He guided us through the rows of vines, sharing the history of the estate, dating back over 400 years.



 Château d’Yquem has a history that reads like a novel, an epic saga spanning over four centuries, rich in events and colorful characters. In 1593, it was acquired by Jacques de Sauvage, who traded it for other lands he owned, and the estate became what was then called the "House of Yquem". Since 1711, the vines have been fully owned by the Léon de Sauvage d’Yquem family.




But what makes Château d’Yquem even more special is that it is open to the public. Unlike many large vineyard estates that are often walled and protected behind fences, here, visitors are welcome. You can wander through the rows, feel the earth under your feet, and admire the vines laden with golden grapes. And yes, you're right, we saw people walking and even jogging through the vine rows. It's a rare and precious experience, as it allows you to connect directly with the land and the history of wine. This anecdote fully encapsulates the philosophy behind Chateau d'Yquem.


The Barrel Dance

We then entered the cellar, where hundreds of oak barrels lay in silent harmony. The intoxicating smell of wood and fermenting wine enveloped us. Our host explained the meticulous process of winemaking, the selection of indigenous yeasts, and aging in new barrels for 18 months. Each barrel seemed to hold a secret, a promise of greatness.



The Hidden Treasure


But the much-awaited moment was the visit to the cellar. Imagine a labyrinth of dark corridors, where vintage bottles rest in secret alcoves. We touched the dusty labels, felt the history that permeated them. And there, at the back of the cellar, lay the pièce de résistance: a bottle of Château d’Yquem 1811, considered one of the greatest vintages of all time. We held our breath before this treasure.



The Tasting Apex


Finally, we were led into the wood-paneled lounge, a fully restored private lounge, offering a spectacular view of the estate, reserved for the house's distinguished guests, where a set table awaited us. Crystal glasses sparkled, and a platter of cheese and culatello ham were carefully arranged. Massimo Bottura himself had brought these delights the day before, plucked from his reserve at Osteria Francescana, his 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in Modena, as he passed through for a private event at the chateau.


Our host uncorked a bottle of Château d’Yquem 2017, a young but promising vintage.


Our host invited us to choose from an incredible collection of vinyl records, the music that would accompany our experience. Colorful album covers sprawled before us, each containing a unique musical story. We opted for a record by Julien Clerc, my wife's favorite, whose smooth notes mingled with the aroma of wine.




We settled comfortably into the armchairs of the private lounge, glasses in hand, eagerly awaiting the tasting. The golden liquid shimmered under the dimmed light, promising a gustatory symphony. The golden liquid danced in our glasses, releasing aromas of honey, apricot, and spices. Each sip was an explosion of flavors, a symphony on our palate. The music enveloped the room, creating a warm and intimate atmosphere. The musical chords seemed to dance with the flavors of the wine and the food, making the experience multisensory to the fullest.


The crystallized cheese was a revelation. Pieces of aged comté had been carefully matured until they reached a perfect balance between creamy and crystallized. With each bite, we discovered crunchy crystals that released notes of hazelnut, caramel, and salt. The cheese, coated with a thin layer of sugar, was a burst of flavors in the mouth. It paired beautifully with the sweet and complex wine, creating a symphony of sweetness and complexity.


The culatello ham, on the other hand, was a work of art. Massimo Bottura had brought this treasure from Italy, a ham aged for months in damp cellars. Each slice was exquisitely tender, melting on the tongue. The aromas of hazelnut, smoke, and earth mingled, creating a subtle dance. The culatello ham was like a gustatory poetry, and it paired perfectly with the sweet and complex wine.


We raised our glasses in his honor, grateful for this unique experience. The wine, the cheese, the ham, everything melted in perfect harmony. We were on top of the world, in this private lounge, sharing an unforgettable moment.


Conclusion


This memorable day will be etched in our hearts. Château d’Yquem offered us much more than just wine. It offered us a dive into history, a communion with nature, and a celebration of life. So, the next time we open a bottle of Sauternes (yes, two bottles found their way to our personal cellar), we will remember this magical day and the incredible generosity of the vine.


And remember, each sip of wine is a story in itself, an invitation to explore the world through our senses.



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