The confident, tuxedoed waiter bends over and intimately intones, “Wouldn’t you like something a little sweet with your foie gras.” All to often, in America’s finest restaurants, the glass that arrives contains Château d’Yquem, the most famous of all dessert wines. I can’t count the times this has happened to me over the decades and, yes, I consider myself lucky to say that. As petty as it may seem, I have a problem with it.
The problem is that there are two Château d’Yquem wines. One is the wine that promises to become d’Yquem and the other is the d”Yquem, which is something that only arrives with time. The first is an excellent dessert wine, the second is a legend. Anyone who has tasted this wine at its zenith understands that d’Yquem does not become d’Yquem until, at a minimum, it passes its twentieth birthday. Before that this great wine offers only potential greatness, not greatness itself. Yet bottle after bottle of this outrageously expensive miracle are poured out in restaurants in the name of elegant infanticide. These restaurants and their sommeliers should know better than this, but do it anyway seemingly struck by the d’Yquem label, more like groupies following the lastest star in People Magazine than serious wine aficionados. To drink young d’Yquem is an intellectual exercise at best and a terrible waste of potentially sublime wine at the worst.
Besides being a horrible waste of one of the world’s greatest sweet wines, it is also a disservice to their customers as there are many wonderful. perfectly ready to drink sweet wines that are more exciting to drink than immature Chateau d’Yquem. It seems to me that a competent sommelier should never be star-struck and serve a wine based only on its name with no regard to whether the wine is ready to drink or not: especially at this price level.
The poor d’Yquem that died a early death a few nights ago was a 1995 Château d’Yquem, an incredible wine that is nowhere near ready to drink. While still tight and a bit pungent, you cannot miss the greatness simmering underneath that will require at least another decade to release itself and perhaps ten years after that to achieve its pinnacle. With current retail prices for this wine at around $200. it should not be hard to encourage you to sit on your investment so you really get what you paid for. Everyone should rise up to protect this great wine and defend it against the next sommelier that wants to serve it before it actually becomes d’Yquem.