As the room filled up for the Château Cheval Blanc and d'Yquem masterclass, with its line-up of extraordinary wines, there was a growing hum of excited chatter among the lucky few who snapped up tickets for this Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2015 event.

Château Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem.

Guests’ excitement was only superseded by Sarah Kemp, Decanter’s publishing director, who was clearly thrilled to introduce the panel and ‘my dream team’; Château Cheval Blanc and d’Yquem director Pierre Lurton, Château Cheval Blanc’s technical director, Pierre-Olivier Clouet, and Château d’Yquem’s cellar master, Sandrine Garbay.

The masterclass started with a tasting of the red wines, the first from Chateau Quinault L’Enclos 2012, a St-Emilion Grand Cru close to the Pomerol borders, acquired from Alain Raynaud in 2008.

This wine was characterised by high proportions of Merlot which was in contrast to the Cabernet Franc dominant 2011 and 2006 Petit Cheval served next, made from grapes ‘100% from the Estate’ as described by Lurton.

Pierre-Olivier Clouet talked the attentive crowd through the intricacies of the Cheval Blanc estate, from picking the fruit by designated plots to vinifying these plots separately and finely blending the plots after a winter of oak ageing.

Cheval Blanc 2012, 2006, 2000

The next wines to be served were the Château Cheval Blanc 2012, 2006 and highly sought-after 2000.

Cheval Blanc wines, DFWE 2015

Cheval Blanc wines at DFWE 2015. Credit Cath Lowe

Clouet described Cheval Blanc aromas; ‘usually the nose of our wine is divided into three parts:

  • Vintage heat – when the vintage is cool the fruit is red, and when the vintage is warm the fruit is black.
  • Cabernet Franc gives floral notes to the wine
  • Freshness, including menthol notes.

When talking about the coveted 2000 Cheval, which retails above £600 ($800) per bottle, Clouet quipped, ‘I call the 2000 the cashmere wine of Cheval Blanc – cashmere because of the price I suppose’. His comments raised a chuckle around the room.

Y by Château d’Yquem

The tasting then moved onto the Yquem’s rare dry white wine, Y by d’Yquem 2012 and 2011.

The 2012, made from 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon, was the only wine made by d’Yquem in the vintage.

The team picked and started to make a Sauternes but Garbay said ‘after the first tasting we decided the quality was not enough to make d’Yquem’.

The Y grapes are picked before the Sauternes grapes with only a little botrytis on. This gives the wine a unique aroma and palate, Lurton said. ‘It’s not the typical Bordeaux white, it’s closer to Alsace white wines,’ he added, pausing for thought before concluding, ‘it’s unique’.

Château d’Yquem 2011, 2009, 2007 & 2005

It was now time for the sweets, and what sweet wines they were, with some of the best recent vintages Château d’Yquem has produced.

Chateau d'Yquem masterclass, DFWE 2015

Chateau d’Yquem wines are poured for the DFWE 2015 masterclass. Credit Cath Lowe

We started with the 2011, which had elegance and concentration, followed up with the slightly warmer vintage of 2009, the late picking 2007 and the classic 2005.

There was a murmur of approval and discussion after each wine, accompanied by animated discussion from the panel, including debating who the boss was, which provoked much laughter from the tasters.

‘When should I drink d’Yquem?’

The masterclass finished with questions from the floor, including ‘when, during the night, do I drink d’Yquem?’

Pierre Lurton’s fabulously animated answer was ‘that’s the eternal question… with the new elegant vintages, serve as an aperitif, no Champagne!

Pierre Lurton portrait, DFWE 2015

Pierre Lurton at DFWE 2015. Credit: Cath Lowe

‘Actually don’t tell my bosses I said that,’ he joked. Yquem is part of the LVMH portfolio. Lurton added, ‘[Drink d’Yquem with] blue cheese, pancake with orange peel – but don’t add sugar – or finally in the middle of the night with a cigar.’

This fabulous answer was met with the largest, warmest round of applause from the audience and was the perfect way bring the masterclass to a close.

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