Monday, February 11, 2008

D'Yquem, Expectations and Tasting Equipment

Chateau d'Yquem, 1988 Sauternes, France Price: No Idea.

He is a nice bloke my old man. We had been in discussions about the Christmas wine and I had spotted a Sauternes at Majestic wine that I thought was going to be pretty spectacular. It seemed the rest of the UK thought so too and so they sold out of the Rieussec before we got chance to pick up a bottle. Not a huge problem, we had plenty of other good bottles to get through and he had picked up some cheaper Sauternes from Marks and Spencers that Jancis had recommended. I was happy enough.
A couple of days after Christmas he is a bit excited and shoots off to another room only to return with two bottles, a Chateau Climens Barsac 1989 and a d'Yquem 1988! Wow! A proper surprise and a really exciting one. The internet reveals Parker points of 90-95 and 99(!) respectively and we start planning when to drink these wonder bottles.

The thing about tasting wine is you need frames of reference. This is why you drink as much as you can and you take notes, they act as an aide memoir and allow you to make comparisons much more easily. The other thing about tasting wine is very often there are many factors that will influence your experience of a bottle. Mood, setting, expectation can all change your experience of a wine. A cheapy Touraine Sauvignon tastes so much better with the sun on your face in a small French town than it does in a flat in Bethnal Green in February.

On opening the d'Yquem I had 2 problems to contend with then, no real frame of reference, I had only ever tasted 2 standard Sauternes before then and expectation, I think I was expecting angels and horns and fruit footed fairies to dance on my tongue. I can confirm now that this did not happen and will so have to wait until I drink a 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

So, despite that, how was it? Good!
It was a fairly deep gold, much much deeper than the one year younger Barsac and actually looked a little like Irn Bru. Obviously it clinged to the glass like a new born and really was very pretty. The nose has a real burnt caramel character with obvious honey and apples. It is ever so slightly nutty and had a hint of citrus peel, more orange than lemon. It wasn't very tropical at all and smelled nowhere near as fresh and sprightly as the other, younger Sauternes I had experience with.
This is an incredibly smooth glass of wine, luscious and unctuous it is a real caramel honey drink, I would recommend it if you have a sore throat. Much better than a Locket. I was expecting it to have much more acidity but this could be an example of really well integrated acidity to the extent that I missed it. I have described the length as reasonable, not great but that doesn't seem accurate now, I remember it had a nice pineapple finish and also had a fairly obvious brown apple thing going on. You know, apples that have been cut up and left to oxidise a bit.

My notes are actually really short as I got a bit annoyed with trying to concentrate so much on the flavour I forgot to enjoy the drink. I spent far too long looking into space concentrating on my cheeks. Not a good look. It really did open up and evolve in the glass as well but I just stopped taking notes.

Let's get one thing straight this was an excellent wine and we all really enjoyed it. I suspect it had no chance of living up to my expectation and so the only solution is for me to get another bottle with my expectations lowered suitably. Now all I need to do is raise my bank balance suitably as well.

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