Chateau d’Yquem the world’s most famous and expensive dessert wine will not be made this year, due to heavy rains preventing the grapes from reaching their necessary sugar levels.
The unfortunate weather is expected to cost the winery “tens of millions of euros” in lost sales.
This isn’t the first time Chateau D’Yquem has had to skip a vintage. Similar decisions were also made in ‘’52, ‘72 and ‘92. “It is as if there was a curse on us every 20 years,” said Pierre Lurton, who runs the D’Yquem estate.
Technology has come a long was since the very first vintage of Chateau D’Yquem, but Sauternes producers in the southwestern region of Bordeaux are mainly at the mercy of the weather each new vintage. What makes the wines of Sauternes so special is all due to a tiny fungus named botrytis.
How can a fungus be so special, you ask?
Well, after the grapes have been left on the vine to “do their thing” (i.e. ripen), in Sauternes they’re left a little longer on the vine than regular table wine grapes. It’s from that point that everyone has their fingers and toes crossed, as the onset of botrytis takes some very specific weather conditions. A perfect combination of morning fogs to add dew to the grapes, combined with warm and sunny daytime temperatures to dry the grapes, is required for “noble rot” to set in. This process must then be repeated daily for as long as is necessary.
– If it’s too cloudy (without sunlight to dry the humidity in the vineyard) or if there’s too much rain (as we have in this case), the botrytis will turn to rot and therefore: “NO SAUTERNES FOR YOU!!!”
– On the other hand, if the weather is too hot and dry, there will be no fungal development of botrytis, and once again: “NO SAUTERNES FOR YOU!!!”
I wonder if they have insurance for that kind-of thing?
This just goes to illustrate how difficult/expensive it is to make botrytised dessert wines! Sometimes sh*t happens! We occasionally need “skipped vintages” to remind us the work that goes into some of these wines and how precious they are….not that I’m drinking D’Yquem every day, mind you!