Before I get started, I need to say that I since I started this blog, I have been very fortunate. Very Fortunate. I have met some incredible people, visited some fantastic places, and consumed many fabulous wines. I fully realize that the following rant comes from a place of privilege and should be viewed as such.
Last fall, I was on a press trip with several other journalists to Bordeaux, but the entire week I did not have a drop of red wine. The very kind people of Sweet Bordeaux (a consortium within the much larger Vins de Bordeaux) organized the visit and did a fabulous job. We visited about a dozen different wineries and tasted scores of the fabulous sweet wines from the region. (While Sauternes is certainly the most widely known, there are 10 appellations within Bordeaux that are permitted to produce sweet wines.)
We either met with the owner, the winemaker or often both, who were very gracious and answered all of our questions, no matter how inane. They, in turn, made their best case as to why they thought that Sweet Bordeaux wines are fantastic choices for a variety of cuisines, not just dessert (which was the whole idea behind the trip).
Each visit was well thought out and showcased the particular winery in it’s finest light and I left each stop impressed.
Except one: Château d’Yquem.
We visited Sauternes’ famed estate near the end of the trip, and I have to admit that I was more than a little excited to visit what most wine lovers consider hallowed ground. OK, I was down right giddy. I performed a quick review of my mental list of contacts and I determined that each would probably give at least a fairly important body part to be where I was at that moment (and one would tell me that she had already been there and loved it).
Shortly after arrival, we were joined by our Yquem appointed tour guide, and that is where it all started to go south. She clearly had a script and she was determined to follow it.
As we toured the grounds, our host kept to her script despite my attempts to get her to alter her course, to offer a tidbit that was not a part of her clearly rehearsed and oft-repeated diatribe.
About 30 minutes into what I consider a modern form of torture, I asked if there were a dungeon on the estate. The host looked at me as if I had two heads and simply responded “No one has ever asked that.” This brought about a smidgen of delight as it seemed to cause her to at least reflect for a nanosecond, but then it was right back to her soliloquy.
I could not help of the only other time I was on such a tour—it was at Moët et Chandon in Epernay, in the heart of Champagne. Coincidentally (?), Moët and Yquem are now owned by the same corporation: LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE. At least at Moët, I was on the tour with a bunch of Norwegians (or were they Swedes?) who thought it was the best tour they had ever been on.
But I do not speak Norwegian (or Swedish), so I am not entirely sure if they liked the tour at Moët. At Yquem, though, I was with a group of American (I am pretty sure none were Canadian) writers, most of them of a (much) higher status than I, but we were getting the “stock” tour, nonetheless.
After another ten minutes of futilely trying to interact, I gave up and tuned out, which is too bad on many levels. Not the least of which was that she was providing an occasional tidbit that was actually interesting (each of the vineyards is controlled by women—with the exception of pruning—24 women care for the 20 hectares [50 acres] of vines, for example).
So I wandered and took a slew of photos, some of which I am posting here.
We then went inside, where we saw the barrel room (yawn) and the tank room (bigger yawn)—sorry, but those do not hold much interest for me any more unless a barrel sample tasting is involved. I know that sounds crass and entitled, and it probably is, but I have probably seen over a thousand of each now. Like with most other genres, I imagine, when you see so much wine porn, you become desensitized.
Then it was off to the tasting. Well, I should not really call it a “tasting” since it lasted less than ten minutes. No, I was not frustrated. I did not storm off in a huff. I was not asked to leave for a snarky remark (although I had several ready, just in case). No, the tasting was short because we tasted just two wines.
As in “one more than one.”
As in “two more than none.”
(I was a math minor.)
That’s right, a group of wine writers from the U.S. came to Château d’Yquem, which has been making wine since at least 1711, and we tasted two wines. That really does not paint the entire picture, sadly. For most people, Yquem makes one wine a year, the eponymous Château d’Yquem, the sweet, golden, unctuous, elixir of the gods.
What most people do not realize, is that since 1959 they also produce a dry white, which is called, simply, “Y.”
The two wines we tasted? The current vintage of “Y” (2016) and of Château d’Yquem (2015).
Whoa. Blow my thinning hair back.
Reportedly, Robert Parker got to taste the 1811 back in the 1990s. OK, I am no Robert Parker (nor do I aspire to be), but would it have killed them to have us taste an older vintage? Say the 2014, for chrissakes?
Yes, I realize that this is a problem that most would like to have. And I would have been apoplectic had the exceedingly kind people at Sweet Bordeaux excluded Yquem from the press trip, but part of me wishes they had—it is tough to have a lifelong “hero” become a bitter disappointment.