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A Perfect Yquem

The 2001 Sauternes earns a 100-point score

James Suckling
Posted: September 23, 2005

Collectors will be standing in line when the 2001 Château d'Yquem is finally released on the global market next week, at a price estimated to be around $400 a bottle. It's a monumental wine from an extraordinary vintage. I scored it a perfect 100 points in a blind tasting on Thursday.

The sweet white wines from Sauternes have already testified to the quality of the 2001 vintage. So far, nine of the 57 wines I have reviewed from the vintage have earned classic scores (95 to 100 on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale), with Rieussec and Doisy-Daëne's L'Extravagant cuvée both receiving 100 points. But Yquem is in a class by itself. If it were possible to give a wine more than 100 points, this would be a candidate.

Bordeaux's greatest sweet wine producer was rumored to have made an incredible Sauternes from the moment the botrytized grapes were picked in 2001. I tasted the wine multiple times at the château, from both barrel and bottle, and it showed amazing potential. Yesterday, I tasted the 2001 Yquem blind against a range of other 2001s, including Climens (97 points) and Suduiraut (98). Yquem left them standing still.

Here is my tasting note: This is the greatest young Yquem I have ever tasted from bottle. Yellow color with a golden hue and an almost green tint. It shows intense aromas of botrytis with spices and blanched almonds that follow through to honey, maple syrup, dried apricots and pineapples. Full-bodied and very sweet, it is thick and powerful with layers of fruit and a bright finish. It coats your palate, yet remains lively and exciting. It is wonderfully balanced and refined, showing the class and pedigree that only this Sauternes estate can deliver. The winemakers at Yquem says it's their greatest modern wine ever. They have not exaggerated. This is best to drink after 2012.

The château produced about 10,000 cases in 2001, almost half the production of a normally outstanding year such as 1990 and 1989.

Besides the 2001 Yquem's fabulous richness and concentration, it shows a profound harmony due to its bright acidity and ultra-clean fruit. The wine is already wonderfully palatable. In fact, it's difficult not to drink it down when tasting it now. But it has the structure for long-term aging.

"The balance in the wine is absolutely amazing," Pierre Lurton told me. He is the head of Yquem as well as St.-Emilion's great Château Cheval-Blanc. Both estates are owned by multibillionaire Bernard Arnault and the luxury-goods conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH).

Lurton, 47, and the estate's head cellar master Francis Mayeur, 46, say that the 2001 Yquem is a benchmark for the property and will take its place as a classic in the same light as legendary vintages of the last century, including 1967, 1959, 1947 and 1921.

It's difficult to say if the 2001 Yquem will evolve into such a celebrated bottle. But judging from the wine I tasted the other day in the office, this young, powerful sticky wine certainly has the potential to do so. That's why I score it 100 points.

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