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Not so impressed by 2003 Château d'Yquem

So I'm a huge wine lover. And in particular a big fan of dessert wines. I have had dozens of different botrytis wines including most of the top Sauternes, Barsacs, and Monbazillacs in some vintage or other. My current favorite a Chateau Memoires Cadillac is a remarkable wine (and rather reasonable $ if somewhat hard to find.) Just for the record I also love ports and have had some very tasty ones dating back as far as 1945...

That said I have never tasted Château d'Yquem... A lot to spend on a bottle, never got around to it, etc. I tend to have good Sauternes in my cellar all the time and save the big $ for port.

I found myself in Gaslight, a Boston restaurant last night and was perusing the wine list as usual, and they have Château d'Yquem 2003 by the glass for $32. Well that was my chance. I bought a glass to share with a friend whose birthday it was...

Sweet certainly, and tasty, some nice other fruity notes, but not the drop dead, mindblowing, definition-of-Sauternes flavor I expected. And honestly light on botrytis-character. Again, I would not complain if someone said: "here taste this." I would have said "wow nice Sauternes." But tasting blind, would never in a million years have said "ah ha, this is Yquem."

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  1. Striper:

    Yquem is one of those few things I rate as better than sex.

    Now, having said that, I'd never

    a) order Yquem by the glass. Since a glass out of a bottle that has been opened a week ago is , well, just a glass out of a bottle that has been opened a week ago. The actual original bottle name is irrelevant at that point.

    b) kill a baby. When speaking of Yquems, even 10 years is too young. I've done the crime on a couple of 1996s, and I don't regret it, but wouldn't ever dare on a 2003.

    My suggestion: get together with a group of friends, share the expense of a 1975, then please post.

    1. Stripe: thanks for the report...

      Assuming, per the other poster's comments, that the wine was not oxidized, then it would have been most revealing to try the CdY heads up vs. other 2003 premier crus... that's the most valid measure, IMO, of how good a particular trophy wine really is... Similar discussion of this on the thread re: Grange shiraz.

      Re bottle age, while 2003 is "young", in my own experience I've found Sauternes to be quite drinkable early though there's no question the wine matures and evolves... again, tasting it heads up against a Suiduirat, Climens, Rieussec, etc. could have revealed quite alot here.

      1. The wine was served from a 1/2 bottle and I was told Gaslight goes through 1 or 2 a night. And it was late on a Saturday, a nearly full 1/2 bottle so likely very recently opened. It was not oxidized at all. I've tried all the wines Mike mentions below (not '03 but other years) both well aged and recent vintages.

        In my opinion, and I would say generally, white dessert wines do not require aging to show their mettle, unlike say port or a really serious red. I have some very nice Rabaud Promis and Chateau de Malle from '89 and '90 aging downstairs. Both are amongst the best Sauternes I have ever had, and yet both also were delicious in '93 or so when I bought them.

        No, this was just an unexceptional bottle in my opinion. Has anyone out there actually tried an Yquem '03?

        13 Replies
        1. re: StriperGuy

          I have rarely had an d'Yquem that was impressive in its youth, and I have had it dozens of times. It is a 20-30yr wine and will never show its cards as a baby. gaslight is showing that they know little about wine to even offer this. That or they think they will take advantage of newcomers

          1. re: Winer

            Keep in mind that if Gaslight were serving 1977 CdY by the glass it would cost more than the meal....

            1. re: Chicago Mike

              Pardon me if I am wrong. But I believe 1977 is one of the worst vintage for both red and white Bordeaux. I think Y'quem skipped the vintage and made a 'Y' instead?!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                I think Chicago MIke was just trying to make a point. That being said you don't offer a grossly immature wine just to say you offer d'Yquem BTG

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  I'm not picking 77 out particularly, but rather the 20 to 30 year timeframe referenced by the other poster.... point being that any CdY of a good year in that general age is going to be much more expensive than 32 dollars a glass....

                  Example, 750mls of 1975's are offered at $850 and up into the teens today.

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Thread drift, but the chateau made both d'Yquem and Ygrec in 1977 and, in fact, usually make both. Haven't had either although I did once have a decent Haut Brion Blanc 1977.

              2. re: StriperGuy

                I'm a neophyte to dessert wines having had only a few Barsacs and Monbazillacs but could you please clearly describe to me the "definition-of-Sauternes flavor [that you] expected" from the d'Yquem '03?

                Thanks!

                1. re: Chinon00

                  The expectation of an "03 d'Yquem should not be known at this juncture. Just like you should have no reference on sex with a child. d'Yquem is best drunk with many years on it. The '67 was still a thrill a sip 5 years ago at age 35, the carmelized qualities of older Sauturne are what makes it so special. You melony and acutely sweet desserts are somewhat hedonistic but not at all what "could be"

                  1. re: Winer

                    Hello Winer, I totally agree with your remarks! These I learn by trial and error ( and quite an expensive one as such! ). Thinking a 15 years old Sauternes should be more than ready, a couple of years ago, I did a vertical tasting of d'Yquem by opening up half bottles of the '88,'89 and 90. Well, as you can guess, NONE of them were ready!! Based on your comment of the '67, I guess the '83 and '86 are still too young as well?! Since I only have a single bottle of 'drinkable' '75 in my cellar, in order to satisfy my sweet tooth, guess, to play safe, I better go with either the Climens, Coutet, Rieussec or Suduiraut.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      I have to dissagree a bit with the remarks here.

                      I agree the '90 d'Yquem is not ready. HOWEVER... sometimes very young Sauternes can be IMMENSELY pleasurable. They do sometimes close down a bit only to re-emerge 20 years later, or more. but, just for an extreme example, to say it was a waste to drink the '01 Rieussac upon release is not really accurate at all.

                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        The '83 is in a very good spot now (multiple notes from bottle, magnum and 3L over the last couple of years) and probably not getting any better. I would open it before '75 or '86-'88-'89-'90.

                  2. re: StriperGuy

                    Around Thanksgiving had the 1990 from magnum and it was excellent. While very young, especially in that format, it was still fantastic... amazing balance, concentration, long finish. I've always loved the 1990, even years ago. Great now and it will get even better. Had it along side a 750ml of the 1959... very dark in color, evolved, a little nutty, still good fruit and long length... not going to be getting any better. I enjoyed the 59 but I'm more partial to the classic, rounder vintages of Yquem... like the 90 or the 83. I don't drink a lot of dessert wine but over the years I've enjoyed Yquem quite a bit. No question it's a great great wine and it's because of the great vintages that the wine warrants the high praise... and there are many great vintages.

                    I still remember the days when Anthony's Pier 4 sold the 1967 by the glass. As discussed, ordering by the glass can be risky. I'd only order a special wine by the glass (figure they're not moving it very quickly) if I knew they were opening a new bottle for me... would pass otherwise at any price.

                    I can assure you that a place like Gaslight doesn't go through 1 or 2 halves of Yquem a night.... be willing to bet a 375ml of the amazing 2001 on that one.

                    Steve
                    www.wineag.com

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      <Has anyone out there actually tried an Yquem '03?>

                      Yes. Someone brought one to an off-line wine dinner a while back, and it was poured all round. It was sweet, and otherwise pretty "meh." It was waaay too young.

                      OTOH, 2003 was an extraordinarily HOT vintage in Bordeaux, so I have wondered how long they waited for that Botrytis to materialize. And perhaps 2003 will not ever attain the greatness we expect from Yquem.

                    2. Out of glass it is impossible to know exactly what you were dealing with -- how long the bottle was open, etc etc.

                      That said, personally, Yquem is not among my favorite dessert wines. Well, it is among my favorite, but not top 3 or 4.

                      1. All snooty comments about what a wine dolt I am aside, none of you have actually tried the 2003...

                        If I get a chance to try a well-aged Yquem I will certainly give it a whirl. Makes me wonder how the Chateau de Malle is coming along.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          StriperGuy,
                          I don't think I or any others are infering that you are a "wine dolt" it morphed into more of a discussion of offering young wines etc.

                          1. re: Winer

                            if it helps, i recently tried the '03 yquem at a wine tasting. this was not my first sauternes, but first yquem. i was dying to try it b/c of all the myth and hype that surrounds the wine.

                            after tasting it, i thought, "yeah, that's pretty good but i'm not completely floored." i've had other dessert wines from the same vintage that were better only b/c they were ready.

                            the key here is, those wines were at or approaching their peak.

                            it wasn't the wine in the glass that was mind blowing, but the potential it showed for down the road.

                        2. Wow, first of all, if you had a 2003 Yquem and it was only $32 a glass, it was probably as the user below commented, in their fridge for a week. It is very difficult to find a Yquem by the glass first off, and when you do, it averages $95 a glass. I just tried this yesterday at Gordon Ramsay's in LA and it was $97 a glass and was a brand new bottled opened in front of me. It was amazing. The 375ml 2003 Yquem averages $249 a bottle so at $32 a glass either they didn't know what they were serving or it had been opened and sitting around awhile.

                          If you get a chance, taste a glass from a fresh bottle. I too love a good Sauternes and this was to me, I would agree with the user below, better than sex.

                          Having said that, if you feel you have tasted better, please do let me know, I def. would be interested in trying because to date for me this experience was amazing.

                          Just bough a case of 12 bottles for $1600 I loved it so much.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: oceanguyjamie

                            Wondering about the 2003 vintage of d'Yquem with its hot growing season/harvest and reduced levels of botrytis and the effect these two variables had on the wine's type of fruit flavors, reduced acidity, depth and intensity of flavors, thickness, mouth feel, ageability, etc.

                            Any insights from those lucky enough to taste d'Yquem regularly, with some knowledge of vintages and variations through the years?

                            Agree with other other comments that the wine would surely have tasted muted and diminished if not from a freshly opened bottle, and that the wine was consumed too young.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              unless a d'quem is at least 20 years old, it shouldn't be opened.
                              restaurant should have known better

                              1. re: Robert Jones

                                Well, most restaurants can't count on the longevity of the operation to buy wine on release and store it for 20 years, and if they go out and buy back vintages they're committing to tie up a ton of capital on bottles that may not move for a very long time. Really the only places that can offer back vintages in size are ones that have been in operation forever or have a backer with a great wine cellar. Personally even though the 2003 is very young, I think it's great that they're offering the experience for such a relatively modest amount.

                                I haven't had d'Yquem 2003 either, so no help there, but other 2003 Sauternes I've tried seemed to be advancing quickly and came across as cloying, from a lack of acidity. Also in general I don't tend to love d'Yquem; the weight of the wine in most vintages is impressive but I find it too heavy for my taste a lot of the time compared with, say, Climens. Admittedly the best d'Yquems I've had have been stellar.

                                Table and Vine in Massachusetts has half-bottles of the terrific 1997 for $150, which is an extremely fair price.

                              2. re: maria lorraine

                                You are right about 2003 as a vintage - it is a matter of taste for most people as the wines are generally very sweet, very 'sticky' and a little out of the normal balance as a result of the hot summer. That said d'Yquem did a pretty good job of keeping things in line (as they always do) and, given time, the wine will in my opinion come through - the sweetness just dominates a little at the moment. 97's and 98's are pretty good value at the moment here in the UK and just beginning to amaze on the palate.

                                1. re: maria lorraine

                                  The 1983, 85,86 and 88 are drinking nice now.
                                  I would not open anything newer than 1988.
                                  The color of d'Yquem should not be too darkened, proper aging means not just keeping it cool- it means keeping away from the light as the bottles are clear. It should be a bit honeyed. I have some 1980's bottles that are still very yellowish.
                                  I wouldn't order a glass in a restaurant, it would be hard for me to believe that it would be a good representation.
                                  I would on'y drink a 2003 if I knew what I was looking for in a young d'Yquem (in order to age it). I don't know enough to be a reliable "early taster" so I would leave it up to expert reviews of that vintage before buying.

                                2. re: oceanguyjamie

                                  A little late to this thread, but OGjamie, $1600 for 1/2 bottles or full. If the latter, where? that's the buy of a lifetime. I'll always buy value d'Yquem, even bad years its good.

                                3. You raped that one.......drinking Y'quem that young does not do it justice. That being said...by a 2005 and drink it in 2025 and then you will see the beauty of the wine. I am sitting on a 75 that is just about ready to pop. Probably in 2015 to give it the 4o years that it needed.

                                  1. Just another point. Do you really think it was Y'quem?

                                    1. As somebody else pointed out - too young and the by-the-glass cha cha cha is a crapshoot.

                                      Lay a vintage down for a couple of months in your own cellar, cook a great complimentary meal then open it and serve it in your own glasses in your own home. A lousy rinse job in the restaurant's dishwasher (or letting the rinsing agent run out), can ruin a glass of wine, employees or patrons smoking around the barware, kitchen smoke 'infecting' the barware. You may laugh, but more wine is mis-experienced than you will ever imagine simply by glasses that aren't fit to hold the vintage you're talking about.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: CharlieTheCook

                                        I have Y'Quem from 80, 82 and 2002 recommendations for when to open each appreciated. How will they compare with OREMUS TOKAJI ESZENCIA 2000 which I love? As a side note I opened a Vega-Sicilia Unico 1999 and loved it but friends say it is too young yet, opinions?

                                      2. I have two full bottles of 76, and haven't had the right group for so much. I have thought about vacu vin, but dont know if that is a good solution. 76 isn't considered one of the better ones.