Chateau d’Yquem vertical at Mosaic
Could we have asked for a more spectacular venue than Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient and their Conference Room? Definitely not. From the moment our guests arrived, greeted by bokke and zebra along the driveway, they were made to feel special and welcomed with proverbial open arms. Transported what feels like a million miles away from civilisation and cocooned in the luxurious and nurturing environs of the Francolin Conservancy the team at the Orient and Restaurant Mosaic helped make this event unforgettable. Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc NV on arrival was just the panacea for the drive into the countryside. A stroll through the magnificent art gallery and then up to the Conference Room had everyone in the right frame of mind to focus on the golden elixir waiting in their glasses.
Flight One: Chateau d’Yquem vintages 2008, 2006, and 1998:
Chateau d’Yquem 2008: Brilliant very pale “white gold” straw appearance. Incredibly fresh and intense tropical fruits on the nose – granadilla, pineapple, mango, citrus, and peaches. A rather linear entry that shows the pronounced youth of this wine with floral notes and some vanilla framing the overt tropical character with elegance and finesse. There is a firm structure here and the wine has not yet relaxed and developed the fuller mouthfeel of older vintages yet has all the hallmarks of becoming a fine wine. An intense racy finish of perfectly ripe passion fruit and mango. 18/20
Chateau d’Yquem 2006: Brilliant pale straw – surprisingly pale compared to ’08 (similar depth of colour). Rich, powerful but elegant with a backbone built for development. Aromatic fresh nose with pineapple, white peaches, coconut, citrus and spice against a notes of acacia honey. Lovely botrytis character on nose carries through beautifully on the palate. Explosive on the palate with a silky mouthfeel, firm acidity and tremendous weight in the midpalate – and a floral quality of citrus blossom with intense bitter orange, pineapple and sun kissed mango. There is a real depth to the wine which still shows youthful intensity. Lingering floral, citrus peel, white stone fruit character on an exceptionally long finish. 18.5/20
Chateau d’Yquem 1998: As one appraises the glass and notes the more developed golden colour and from the moment this is lifted to the nose – the complexity of an older vintage is appreciated. Lemon gold with a depth of brilliance, the nose shows candied orange peel, glace apricots, dried peaches, a nuttiness that approaches freshly made marzipan, and a very obvious botrytis character. It is rich, mouth-filling and almost oily although the botrytis character is not as forthcoming on the palate. Beautifully balanced acidity and lovely spice profile of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves that lingers with intense candied citrus character. Amazing concentration and development. 17.5/20
This flight had a clear favourite amongst the group – the 2006 vintage. The flight itself showed a tremendous progression from the newer to older vintages yet there was a core that remained true across the wines – an elegance, a structure and depth of character. We went from fresh tropical fruits in 2008 to slightly honeyed and perhaps dried fruits in the 2006 to candied fruits in the 1998.
Flight Two: Chateau d’Yquem vintages 2003, 1985, and 1982:
Chateau d’Yquem 2003: Still quite pale when compared to the ’06 and ’98 although with a brilliance and depth of colour in between the two – could be a good sign. A nose of grilled pineapple (slight smoky quality), citrus fruits, orange marmalade and lemon curd with a note of beeswax and lanolin. The palate reflects this with spicy floral tones and a surprising intensity and purity of the fruit. There are notes of fennel and grilled or toasted nuts. It is rich, creamy and mouthfilling with dark caramelised sugar qualities and orange marmalade that reflects the almost 100% botrytis achieved in this hot vintage. Despite the complexity (and our empty tasting glasses), compared to the previous flight, it has to be said that this does not linger with the same refinement – perhaps something that will develop over time? 17/20
Chateau d’Yquem 1985: When opening the bottle, the cork was dark, moist and almost frightening. After opening with a great deal of care, it was removed intact although noticeably darker and more moist than the others. There was no obvious fault in the wine. Going back eighteen years from the previous wine – to the only vintage where the grapes were harvested in December was quite a paradigm shift. A beautiful almost pink gold brilliant appearance and a complex inviting nose of spicy plums, candied fruit peel, saffron, beeswax and lime marmalade. The palate still shows fresh fruit? Very surprised by the freshness on the palate – even though it is rich, it is not heavy. Layers of toasted nuts, crème brulee and unctuous grilled tropical fruits unravel slowly in the mouth. Lingering spice and marmalade character. Quite obviously still has some life in it! 17.5/20
Chateau d’Yquem 1982: No obvious cork taint when opening the bottle but after standing open for 3 hours, there is a mustiness and a slightly chemical quality that has become apparent (much less so on the palate). One can taste beyond it and most tasters finished what was in their glasses – perhaps out of fascination as this vintage showed pronounced botrytis character on the nose and palate. There is balance and finesse despite the taint. There is a light coppery hue to the wine. It is rare to talk about smoky, cedar or pine character as one opens a bottle of Yquem but that is what greeted us followed quite closely by a confected fruit character, preserved syrup laden oranges and spice. All this carried through to the palate and seemed to unravel like the previous wine although it was not as syrupy as the ’85. There is some almond/apricot kernel bitterness on the finish. 16.5/20
A most interesting flight and the favourite of the group was the 2003. Whether a question of freshness or the difficulty in sometimes appraising a warmer, older, more complex vintage is a matter of debate – what was not questionable were the smiling faces and empty glasses as everyone truly seemed to appreciate the difference in the flights as well as the nuances of aging. And with that we arrived at our final flight of “exceptional” vintages.
Flight Three: Chateau d’Yquem vintages 2005, 1989, and 1986:
Chateau d’Yquem 2005: Pale, youthful, brilliant yellow – almost “glowing”. Concentrated complex nose of poached apricots, figs, white linen and flowers, fresh honey, citrus peel, just toasted hazelnuts, baked brioche and a touch of petrol. The obvious botrytis character is lush yet elegant and the structure on the palate is amazing. One realises immediately this is the making of a legend and we are drinking some history. Everyone lingers over this glass – appreciating the complexity of the palate and the waves of honeysuckle, spice and just dried ripe tropical fruits assaulting our senses. Rich without being cloying and creamy on the palate, an unparalleled balance – this lingers and appears to be “melting” on the palate gently for many minutes after one swallows. 19/20
Chateau d’Yquem 1989: Some crystals in the bottom of the bottle. It now becomes apparent where the 2005 is heading. The same tasting note virtually applies yet it is amplified exponentially with the complexity that only comes from age. While the colour pointed to an older wine (early 80’s – when compared to the ’85 and ’82), the palate still has a lively fruit intensity. On comparison there is more of an apricot marmalade quality here but it is so intense and opulent. Quince rounds out the palate and it registers that this vintage is weighty but not cloying. Hints of mushroom and burnt toffee. Some bitter orange on the finish but one gets the sense there is still lots of life in this bottle. 18.5/20
Chateau d’Yquem 1986: Showing some bottle age, the nose here is decidedly different from the other two in the flight – spicy, herbal notes precede dried figs and almond/marzipan notes. Lemon verbena, candied orange peel and almost potpourri like fragrance comes next. The palate is exquisitely balanced and still shows fresh peaches, dried apricot, hazelnut oil and chamomile flowers. There is almost a vibration in the mouth here as it resonates and slowly reveals the complexity and nuances. Commanding and with the longest finish of all the wines tasted – honeyed fennel and citrus. 19/20
While the majority prefer the 2005 vintage, the balance is split across the ’89 and ’86 and one can see that the group will fight for the remains in the bottles which will be brought out again at dessert. Inviting guests to bring a glass or two with them if they have anything left – a glance around the room reveals only one person has done so as the other glasses are dry…and we head off to lunch at Restaurant Mosaic a few steps away into culinary paradise.
Served with the meal were Chateau d’Yquem “Y” 2008, or Ygrec as the dry white wine is pronounced and Chateau Yon Figeac 2000.
Chateau d’Yquem “Y” 2008: exceptionally pale straw (more pale than some local 2011 white wines!), brilliant and “shiny”. Nose shows some botrytis character and herbal notes along with grapefruit citrus, white fleshed fruit – pears, and fresh almost ripe pineapple. After a half an hour in the glass, a floral character emerges too. What an odd sensation to find the dry entry and finish framing such fruit? Clementines and honeysuckle notes linger with each sip. It is complex and rich yet not heavy in any way. This is a delight for the senses and naturally with such crisp and firm acidity a logical companion to food. 18/20
Chateau Yon Figeac 2000: This Grand Cru St. Emilion drank very easily and well. On the nose, some brambleberry, plum, cedar, flambéed cherry and liquorice. On the palate – a leathery, mineral driven plum and cherry palate with herbal notes and grippy tannin. Tobacco leaf and cherry tobacco notes too. A great natural acidity and the Cabernet Franc spice lends itself to pairing with food. Well rounded mouthfeel and balance. Lingering black berry and fennel quality. Great depth and complexity here. Smoothed out the rough edges within 15 minutes in the glass. Definitely still has some aging potential. 17/20
And what a meal followed. See the pictures from the incredible menu put together by Chantal and her team below. We found ourselves not knowing whether to have a mouthful of wine or food first and glancing around the table – saw many people with a fork in one hand and a glass in the other simultaneously! The Chateau d’Yquem sweet wines revisited the table just before the dessert arrived and guests were heard “bargaining” with one another over the remaining vintages.
Restaurant Mosaic’s Winter 2012 Dégustation Menu
Taste Buds Tingler (A small seasonal gift from the Chef)
Ceviche of Scallop with Cauliflower Crème and Beignet
Caramalised Veal Sweetbreads with Quince and Wholegrain Mustard Sauce
Slow Braised Rabbit Ravioli with Marogo and Creamed Red Wine Jus
Remise en Bouche
Les Plats Principaux
Farmed Sustainable Kabeljou with Madagascan Vanilla Foam
Honey Glazed Wood Pigeon with Wild Herb Salad and Red Wine Bugu Jus
Impala Loin, Smoked Impala Leg, Traditional Brawn, with Kumquat Jelly
A Parade of Cheese
Chef’s selection of local and International Cheeses
Dark Chocolate and Bergamot Delice
Caramelised Apple Tart Tartan with Apple Cloud and Pistachio Ice Cream
Coffee and Petits Fours
Most of our guests had an inkling they were in for a treat when it came to the wines and the menu but the laughter was an added bonus as the day unfolded and our guests really enjoyed themselves.
At the end of a beautiful Highveld winter’s day and with a sun starting to surrender its position in the sky, our guests left as smiling, happy people. How could they not after a day of incomparable Chateau d’Yquem vintages and an exquisite meal? The only thing on everyone’s lips was “when can we do this again?”…
[Footnote: Debi van Flymen wrote this pinching herself and still smiling 24 hours after the event considering herself a very lucky lady to have had the privilege of presenting these wines and sharing this special day with a terrific group of tasters and the talented Orient/Mosaic team.]