Stephen Williams of The Antique Wine Company offers historical context, insight, and commentary on an exceedingly rare bottle of 1811 Chateau d'Yquem.
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In 1811, the Flaugergues Comet (aka The Great Comet of 1811) passed by the earth. It heralded not only one of the most impressive 19th Century Bordeaux vintages but one of the greatest vintages ever produced. Henceforth, 1811 has become the most well known of the 'Comet Vintages.'
Much of this reputation is due to the rare remaining bottles of 1811 Chateau d'Yquem. This wine was rated 100 points by Robert Parker after a 1995 tasting and 100 points by The Wine Spectator's Per-Henrik Mansson in 1999.Read more about the 1811 d'Yquem »
'Comet Vintages' are years during which an astronomical event, generally involving a large comet such as the Flaugergues Comet (aka The Great Comet of 1811) passing by the earth, occurs prior to harvest. Throughout the history of wine, winemakers have attributed successful vintages and ideal weather conditions to the unexplained effects caused by the passing of comets.
How many bottles of 1811 d'Yquem are there left?
The re-corking records at Château d'Yquem were examined in 2007 and confirmed that 6 bottles of 1811 Château d'Yquem had been re-corked on various dates between 1993 and 2007. However, some of these bottles may have been opened and consumed since that time, while others may never have been re-corked at all, so it is not clear exactly how many are left to this day; but obviously there are very few.
How much is the insurance on the bottle?
The bottle is insured by an English-based insurance company on behalf of The Antique Wine Company for its journey from London to Bali for the amount of US$117, 000, the price of the bottle.
Will this bottle ever be opened?
Yes, the new owner Christian Vanneque plans to open this bottle at some point in the future. First of all, let's not forget that the 1811 d'Yquem is not only drinkable, but still subtle and vibrant to this day (as opposed to red wines of the same age). Secondly, Christian did not purchase this bottle as an investment but instead as a personal 'petite folie'.
Incidentally, he did not know at the time of the purchase that it was the most valuable white wine ever sold. Christian would like to open the bottle within the next six years (fearing that, as a 62-years old now, may be in worse shape than the wine in six years!) and to enjoy it with his wife Agnès, his brother Daniel, his best friend George (both of whom are ex-sommeliers of La Tour d'Argent as well) and Stephen Williams from The Antique Wine Company, at La Tour d'Argent in Paris. During the dinner, the 1811 d'Yquem would be served with the famous 'Foie Gras des Trois Empereurs' and most likely with a Roquefort Fermier et Affiné at the end of the meal. It is Christian's hope that the current proprietor of the restaurant, André Terrail (son of the late Claude Terrail) and David Ridgway, current head sommelier and Christian's replacement, will also both be on-hand to taste this historic wine. That would be in 2017 and exactly 50 years after Christian started at La Tour d'Argent.
Read Reviews »
By all accounts, 1811 d'Yquem is considered to be the world's greatest white wine. The vintage was one of the most successful efforts in the history of the estate. Every time this wine is reviewed, the scores are spectacular and the comments effusive – even after nearly 200 years!
Parker's notes on the wine are as follows: "...The 1811 d'Yquem, with its dark gold color, awesomely intense, sweet nose, unctuous, thick, fabulous flavor extraction, pinpoint precision, and a finish that lasted a minute or more, is the kind of wine on which Yquem's reputation is based. It was liquified Creme Brulee - an astonishing wine..."
Mansson stated, "The famous "Comet Vintage" yielded this perfect Sauternes that's the pinnacle of Yquem. Full-bodied and very smooth in texture, it offers an exotic combination of whipped cream and freshly crushed raspberry, rolling over the palate with incredible finesse to end on a dreamlike, velvety finish."
Michael Broadbent has also given the white Bordeaux of the vintage an overall 5* rating and commented that the 1811 d'Yquem had a, "...sweet scent. It reminded me of raspberries and cream. Considerable depth and length."
This un-opened bottle of 1811 d'Yquem has now been purchased by Christian Vanneque for US$117,000, making it the most valuable bottle of white wine ever sold.