Yquem, Château d’

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Yquem, Château d’, the greatest wine of sauternes and, according to the famous 1855 classification, of the entire bordeaux region. It is sweet, golden, and apparently almost immortal.

The origin of the name is obscure, although the Germanic aig-helm (meaning ‘to have a helmet’) is claimed. Probably the first vineyard-owning family were the Sauvages, who, from being tenants, bought the estate in 1711. It was acquired by the Lur Saluces family in 1785, when the last Sauvage d’Yquem married Comte Louis-Amadée de Lur Saluces. By then the wine was very well known, for in 1787 Thomas jefferson wrote to ‘M. d’Yquem’, asking to buy some, stating, ‘I know that yours is one of the best growths of Sauterne [sic]’. It is not known when Yquem was first made with botrytized grapes, those affected by noble rot, but this painstaking technique probably originated early in the 19th century, although very sweet bottles dating from the latter part of the 18th century have been found. In the second half of the 19th century, Yquem had a worldwide reputation, not least in tsarist russia. From before the First World War until 1968, the estate was run by the Marquis Bernard de Lur Saluces who was succeeded in 1968 by Comte Alexandre, who also owns Ch de Fargues in Sauternes (although in 1999 lvmh acquired majority ownership after a bitter family struggle). Pierre lurton, also manager of Ch cheval blanc, was subsequently installed by LVMH.