An uncharacteristically early start was required in order to make our 9.30am appointment at the legendary Chateau d’Yquem.
With time to stop in the village of Sauternes for a coffee, we had a stunningly beautiful day with gorgeous morning light and evidence of the swirling mists that are essential for inducing the development of the noble rot.
The visit to Yquem was nothing short of extraordinary. Anne gave us a detailed account of the history and then we were lucky enough to not only witness the grapes arriving, but also to taste the hallowed, botrytised grapes themselves. Call me geeky, but I can’t express the excitement adequately – a truly momentous occasion in my wine life!
From the winery and barrel cellar it was then into the tasting room. Simple yet sublimely elegantly furnished we waited in eager anticipation.
First up was the Y de Yquem 2016 – their dry white which they make in very small quantities. Predominantly Sauvignon, this was a mind blowing tasting moment and gave us an insight into the epitome of highly expressive, intense and powerful white wine. A wonderful first taste and only the 150 euro price tag blocking my way to buying a case.
Then the Grand Vin – Chateau d’Yquem 2014. James Suckling has given this 100 points. A masterpiece of sweet wine making. This was a historic tasting moment for all of us that we are unlikely to forget. Words can barely do justice to the intensity, concentration and freshness. Given the attention to detail, intensive labour and replacing every barrel every year, the 350 euro price tag was worth every penny.
The bus seemed quiet as we pondered this experience on the way to lunch in Langoiran. However, we soon perked up as we swept into the Brasserie Saint Martin right by the river Garonne and tucked into a hearty local lunch. Salads, salmon and goats cheese, followed by steak and frites and crème brulee and chocolate fondants washed down with some delicious local wines.
From the Brasserie, it was a short hop to Chateau Biac. Owned by former Lebanese banker Tony Asseily who bought the estate in 2006 this was both an amazing contrast and an incredible story. Because it is situated on the other side of the river to Graves, it falls under the AOC Cotes de Bordeaux which is not regarded highly. However, Chateau Biac, which has a natural amphitheatre of vines, lies in the apex of the river, has been advised by some of Bordeaux’s most renowned oenologists and winemakers that it has quite superb terroir.
Tony clearly has a passion to ensure that his wine receives the recognition it deserves and has invested heavily in the estate. He took us on a detailed tour which encompassed the fascinating diversity of terroir, some state of the art winery equipment and proof in terms of a superb tasting, culminating in a bottle of his very first vintage – 2008. The quality of the wines were exceptional (Le Gavroche has been serving his wines at lunchtime for the past five years!) We finished off with his utterly sublime sweet wine made from botrytised Semillon grapes. Utterly, utterly delicious.
What a day!