2003 Château d'Yquem Sauternes

What Angels Drink

Where to begin?

First, the name. There are a handful of wines that I have specifically put on a bucket list. Wines I want to drink before I die. Names like Chateau Petrus, Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Dom Perignon, Chateau Cheval Blanc, and, yes, Chateau d'Yquem.

Second, the style of wine. Sauternes is botrytized semillon and sauvignon blanc (this one is 80% of the former, 20% of the latter) and it’s delicious. I wrote up a Sauternes-style wine from Sonoma County, and I’d still recommend that wine without hesitation. However, this… this is something else.

Let me just burst any bubble you might have here: this is expensive wine. This is world-renowned, expensive wine. A 375ml half-bottle of 2003 Chateau d'Yquem is $150–$200.

OK, so what’s it like?

First, the color is a perfect gold. It’s truly gorgeous. Swirling the glass even lightly shows the viscosity one would expect from a dessert wine. No surprises here.

The surprises begin when you get your face anywhere near this stuff. The nose is soft and lustrous, and shows off a lightly sweet honey note, along with a hint of bright, sharp cheese, and a nuttiness that comes off to me like candied cashews. I am so excited to be able to use candied cashews in a wine review.

The wine is full-bodied, but not heavy. It doesn’t coat your mouth, it just kind of covers the whole thing. Does that not sound dissimilar to you? I’m not sure how else to describe this mouthfeel–it is both full-bodied and light on the tongue. And I’m not sure how.

Notes of honey and nuttiness from the nose mix with a hint of lemon zest, but more than that, with a caramel note that, like the rest of this wine, stays light and soft while also feeling downright elegant. Luxury in a glass.

I wish this wine was less expensive. I wish I could have it all the time. But, like many of the world’s finest things, high demand must be counterbalanced by high cost, because it is simply impossible to make enough of something this good to satisfy everyone who wants some.

However, if you have a chance to drink this wine—whether at $400/bottle or $40/glass—give it a go. I cannot imagine the 2003 Chateau d'Yquem disappointing anyone.

Verdict: 99/100

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