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Really, really old D'yquem - Is it worth the big bucks?!!

I just came across the news on BBC that a bottle of 1811 Chateau D'Yquem was sold for US$120,000. Making it the most expensive bottle of White wine ever auctioned. Thats about $10,000 a glass!
The oldest D' Yquem I've ever tasted was only a 1975. It was quite something! At about $70 a glass, that, I can take. However, when it comes to three or four figures per glass. Is it really worth it? Will one be paying for just a sweet tangarine skin, burnt caramel solution? Ha!

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  1. If you've got the money, why the hell not? That said, I will never have the money.

    1. Charles, you do realize, don't you, that NO ONE can answer your question.

      "Is it worth the big bucks?" depends upon what's in an individual's wallet -- what they have in terms of disposable income, in terms of passion towards wine, and so many other HIGHLY PERSONAL factors, that only each individual can answer that question.

      Certainly for those without the disposable income -- whether they have the passion or not -- the question is moot. So, too, is it moot for the people who have the money, but have no interest in wine. And only those with both, as well as the opportunity to make such a purchase, can (or need) to answer that . . . .

      I'm trying to think of the vintages of Château d'Yquem I've tasted that were 25+ years of age at the time . . . 1893, 1928, 1929, 1934, 1937, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1975.

      Now, based upon that experience, would *I* say the 1811 was worth $10K per glass?

      Well, for one thing, it IS from the legendary "Comet" vintage. That alone jacks the $$$$, but I can think of far too many other things to spend MY ten thousand dollars on than on a single glass of wine . . . so, for me, the answer is "no."

      Then again, while I can certainly afford to spend $$$ on a bottle of wine, I have a very difficult time with the IDEA for spending $100+ on a bottle of wine . . . it's not because I'm cheap, but rather it's because wine is -- for me -- something that goes with my meals on almost a daily basis. So, for one thing, spending $100+ a night on a bottle of wine, 3-4 nights a week, adds up fast! But more importantly, none of these wines were that expensive as I was growing up and when I entered the wine trade. When I used to pay $19.95 for 1970 Château Mouton, or $33 for 1966 Château Lafite; $19.95 for Comte de Vogüé Musigny, and $18.95 for 1971 Bonneau de Martray Corton-Charlemagne; $37.50 for 1967 (and $22.50 for 1971) Château d'Yquem, and $9.95 for 1971 Château Suduiraut . . . the very idea of these new wines at their current prices just seems ludicrous to me!

      C'est la vie, I suppose . . .


      FWIW, the name of the property is "Château Yquem." The name of the Sauternes produced from the property's vineyards is "Château d'Yquem." (Little "d" and capital "Y".) And, in the spirit of completeness, the name of the dry white wine made there is technically "Château Y," but will sometimes be written as "Ygrec."


      3 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        First, I just wanted to say Wow!!!!!!!!!! $37.50 for a 1967 d'Yquem!! And I thought the Can$90 I spend on my 1985 Sassicaia was hell of a steal and an investment!!
        Exactly my point also! Whether one can afford it or not, surely for 120K, one should be able to find better worthwhile things to buy or spend. For that bottle, one can have a tasting menu in all the Michelin 3* restaurants on earth!!

        1. re: Charles Yu

          Exactly . . . I can understand why SOME bottles -- like a Thomas Jefferson bottle of claret, for example, or an 1811 d'Yquem -- can fetch astronomical prices at auction, but to be honest, art auctions make much more sense to me. After all, unless you NEVER open the 1811 and then re-sell it when it's 250 years old, you'll never get your money back, and how many people can you get to cough up $10,000 for a single glass of wine? At least with a Rembrandt, a Van Gogh, or a Picasso, the chances are you won't lose your money . . . and the painting, unlike the wine, will never "go bad."

          I have a harder time understanding the $2,000 per bottle price of a new vintage . . . and, yes, I would MUCH rather have the tasting menu. ;^)

        2. re: zin1953

          Also, one, without unlimited means, could see that as the most expensive urination, that they have ever experienced... [LOL]

          To others, it might be but a hiccup in spending, like a dozen Judith Lieber purses for the wife, plus a hermetically sealed storage locker for them. [I know several folk, who did just that.]

          For me, well no, but then my NetJet account has lapsed.


        3. Just has to be "worth it" to one person. It's always been a matter of what the market will bear.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            exactly, one person is all it takes for it to be technically "worth it". Proof that it's worth $120k: it just sold for that much.

          2. Anytime we're talking about the extreme high end of the price range for any category, you throw "common" sense out the window. If you're worth $5B+ and a mere 10% of your wealth is in interest-bearing investments generating 5% annually, the $120K spent on a bottle of old, sweet grape juice really amounts to less than 2 days worth of interest. Crazy to contemplate that sort of disposable income, but there's plenty more than a handful of people walking this Earth who could pull the trigger like that.

            1. Charles,

              First, you must answer this question: do you like older (very much older) Sauternes?

              Second, do you have plenty of $ to spend on these wines?

              Third, does it really matter to you?

              Now, the auction price of any wine, is predicated on what one will pay, and seldom more. Is this going to compete a collection? Will this put the buyer above a friend, who also collects Sauternes? Will this be an investment, or something that one would serve to the right crowd?

              Lot of questions. For me, it would be a moot point, as I have never paid more than about US $ 2000 for a bottle of wine. For many others, this could well be a "center-piece," and worth every penny.

              It's like someone asking if it's worth the $ to buy an S-Class AMG vs a regular S-Class. To me, the answer is yes. Now, if one factors in a full Lorinser package on that AMG, then I am not sure. It just depends on the buyer. For most, I'd say skip the AMG, and definitely the Lorinser treatments, but that is just me.

              If you bought that wine, then do not forget your "friends" here, when you open and pour. We would appreciate the opportunity to taste it with you, and toast your generosity. This D'Yquem is for YOU! [Grin]


              2 Replies
              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Hi Bill,

                Sorry, I cannot answer your first question since the oldest Sauternes I've tried was that 1975 d'Yquem I eluded to above. To me, that was still 'fresh', complex with lots of depth. And I enjoyed that immensely. However, here we are talking 150 years older! So, absolutely no clue and no way one can extrapolate!

                Oldest dessert wine I had was still only a 1965 young Tokaji Aszu Eszencia. I did not particularly enjoyed that since I found it to be too 'herbal'(?) with srong dry tangerine skin and burnt caramel flavour. But then again, I'm one of those weird wino who prefers young fresh Riesling over old complex ' petrol ' ones!

                Lastly, I thought instead of using Mercedes S vs AMG as analogy, due to the pedigree of the d'Yquem, you will be using Bugatti Veyron vs Bugatti Veyron fbg par Hermes as example! Ha!!

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  For me, the oldest D'Yquem was the 1950, and it was quite good, but perhaps I was in a rapture at having it?

                  For dessert wines, we did an 1863 Verdelho Madeira, and it was excellent. Having those glasses, with our favorite sommelier, might have added to the evening?

                  As for the MB analogy, I could not help myself. My wife hates it, when I use her auto, but she usually gets over it quickly... LOL


              2. In my first marriage, to The Embezzler, I was fortunate enough to drink d'Yquem 1929 more than once, as well as many other biblical vintages. My single word answer to your question is --yes--. Only because I have a streak of gambler in me regarding wine. The 19th century madieras we drank were also some of the most memorable experiences of my life.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pickypicky

                  I recall an 1862 madeira I enjoyed with dessert at Berns in Tampa, quite nice. Also nice that while the US was engaged in a civil war, Spain was making fine wine. It sort of transported me back in time, and my visit to Gettysburg.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    The "history" aspect is worth noting. Whether it's the "year of the comet," or the depths of the US Civil War, something is to be said for drinking such wines. For me, a poor boy from Mississippi, and the son of a share-cropper, it's a tad bit unsettling, but if someone else is buying, so be it.

                    I also find such tastings to be very difficult to hold objectively, but that is a small price to pay for sampling such wines.

                    Were I to hit the Powerball, maybe I could purchase such wines, and then invite all my rowdy CH friends over, just to taste. I'd hope to consume such wines, with friends, as there is no one to leave them to.


                2. Charles, How old are you? Age may play a part here. My experience with wines that have aged well is that they possess almost infinite layers of flavor. The madieras I had (sorry not to remember vintages but I had 10 or so from the 19th c because The Embezzler bought well and madieras were cheap in the 1980's, 90's) were life-changing in complexity. They drank well for days, even weeks. How can something be that strong? The 1929 d'Yqem was like that as well. How could it be so old and yet so fresh? So full of complex flavor, nose, and finish? These wines spoiled me for drinking young wines, although I'd admit young wines have their charms. To this day, I am a sucker for bottle age.-- and I'm usually disappointed. If you want to know more, I suggest reading Michael Broadbent's tasting notes. They are great wine literature-- and may even go back to as far as the wine you posted about.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: pickypicky

                    How YOUNG am I??! Well, here's a clue. I bought my first bottle of wine - a 1971 Schloss Johannisberger Riesling Auslese just after they were released, whilst studying at university in London,UK.

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      That's a nice wine to start with . . .

                      I remember that, when the wine steward at College (also a Medieval German Literature professor) discovered I had grown up in the wine trade, he was quite apologize as they had just run out of the "College Port" (1955 Sandeman), and had moved up to the not-quite-yet-ready 1960 Warre's . . . but for £1.50, who was I to complain!


                      1. re: zin1953

                        Sigh! Are we 'older generation' more sophisticated when we were young, drinking fine wine and port in college? Seems like the newer generations are too busy with their hightech gadgets and settle for beer or hard liquor instead?!
                        Interesting you mentioned Port! I remembered being invited to dinner at one of my professor's home ( who also happened to be a distant uncle of mine ). At the end of the meal, I was offered the typical 'English' after dinner drink, a glass of Port. In fact, i was told its a 1945 Taylor! So delicious and sweet. I think this was the catalyst for my love for sweet wine! My prof/uncle also told me it was still too young!

                        I can also remember tasting one of the most delicious chicken ever in that dinner. My prof., took a free range chicken, seasoned it with special oriental herbs, spices, rice wine and premium soya sauce for hours. Then he steamed it till 75% done and finish off the bird by smoking it over, rice, Chinese tea leaves and brown sugar. Heavenly!

                        Those were the days!!!

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          Porto novice as I am, I recognize 45 as one of the best from that century, tho I never had the pleasure of one earlier than 63. As to the magnificent 94's, I guess we'll be gone before they hit their stride. 'taint fair.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Well, whilst waiting for your 'perfect '94' ( Taylor or Fonseca I presume ), you can always fill the gap and your craving with a slightly inferior '70 '77,'83 or '85?!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              I loaded up on the '85 Warre's when I lived across from the UN in '96. They were depleted by odd 3. Youthful exuberance.

                          2. re: Charles Yu

                            At the wine bar I worked at while I was attending the University of California, Santa Cruz, our after diner Vintage Porto by the glass was 1945 Croft . . . $12.00.

                            (The '60 Warres was at Pembroke College in Cambridge.)

                            1. re: zin1953

                              If we could turn back the hands of time...and inflation...

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Time, yes; but, FWIW, it's not inflation that did that to wine pricing . . .

                                If that's all it was, then that brand new vintage of Château d'Yquem (1971) that cost me (IIRC) $22.50 in 1976, would cost me only $89.26 (2009) -- rather than $700. See http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/yqu...

                    2. Is it worth $1000 for an hour or two with Masa?
                      Is it worth $1000 an hour with a good attorney or tax professional?
                      is it worth $2500+ a day to try and catch a big fish?
                      How about $100K to climb a mountain or ski a slope?

                      Its all subjective. If a sip of a special wine makes you happy, or if that indulgence brings you business that exceeds the expenditure than why not?

                      And if you have $100 million in the bank, $120K is nothing.

                      1. Mr Yu -- I bow to your experience and venerability. You may enjoy the direct antithesis experience to the one you propose -- in my $3 bottle of 1981 Clos du Bois Late Harvest Gewurtz. Wish you all were here. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/798854

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: pickypicky

                          Addressing me as Mr. Yu whilst everybody else on chowhound simply call me Charles. Pickypicky, you must be the 'most polite' fellow chowhounder I have encountered!!!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            So we should refrain from addressing you as "hey Yu"??

                            Sorry, couldn't resist.......vbg.