Wines of the Week: Château d’Yquem and Mauro Molino

Château d’Yquem 2014 ‘Y’ Bordeaux Blanc Sec                    96
Mauro Molino 2017 Barolo                                       93
by Ian D’Agata

Château d’Yquem 2014 ‘Y’ Bordeaux Blanc Sec                           96

Château d’Yquem is such an amazing property and wine that it collects awards and accolades the world over in a practically non-stop manner. In a very small way, it does so again here: its ‘Y’ Bordeaux Blanc Sec, the estate’s dry white wine, is the first wine that the TerroirSense Wine Review features for a second time in the Wines of the Week section (albeit of a different vintage). And why not, given how amazing the 2014 ‘Y’ Bordeaux Blanc Sec is. Simply put, it is not just one of the best ‘Y’s ever made, but it is drinking remarkably beautifully now, finding itself in an amazing sweet spot that will leave you open-jawed (save when you close said jaw so you can drink some more of it right away).

Deep, vibrant golden-tinged yellow. The absolutely amazing, profoundly complex and captivating nose boasts notes of custard cream, lemon curd, buttered toast, beeswax, white peach, passion fruit and kumquat aromas sexed up by vanillin and sweet spice notes, this is very Semillon! Then at once luscious and precise, with brilliantly focus and energetic flavours similar to the aromas complicated by hints of acacia honey, minerals and tangerine with just the faintest nuances of dandelion and gooseberry. The finish is long and showcases fantastic acid-fruit balance. Truly a memorable ‘Y’, it highlights brilliantly how with age the Semillon takes over, front and center (beginning with the colour), while the Sauvignon Blanc really takes a back seat, accounting for a much bigger weight and degree of complexity, not to mention aging capacity.

The 2014 ‘Y’ is a blend of 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon with seven grams per liter of residual sugar that was aged in 20% new French oak barrels, with the rest in two years old barrels used for Château d’Yquem. The estate applies to this dry white wine the same exacting standards and identical vinegrowing methods it employs for its famous Sauternes, but clearly the winemaking is different. The 2014 ‘Y’ struck me as being a real throwback to the previous era of later harvested grapes and it is simply a memorable wine, mostly because of its beautifully pristine, concentrated and pure Semillon notes. First made in the 1959 vintage, ‘Y’ is a dry white wine that was initially made with late-harvested grapes (and with some hit by noble rot). With the 1996 vintage, an effort was made to produce a much crisper, fresher, style of wine more in tune with modern lifestyles with the majority of the Sauvignon Blanc picked early in the season, while the Semillon grapes at maximum super-ripeness. While ‘Y’ may no longer be the joyful luscious mouthful of wine it once was, it remains a magical wine. And in 2014, it winks, successfully, at its past. Drinking window: now-2032.

Mauro Molino 2017 Barolo                                       93

A small quality estate of Barolo in La Morra, I have been enjoying this estate’s wines ever since I can remember, beginning somewhere at the end of the 90s. Mauro came back to the estate in 1979 and started to vinify the grapes from the vines his father left him as an inheritance. In 1982 he made his first Barolo from the outstanding Conca vineyard, adding in time to his portfolio the Barolos from what then called the Gancia cru (Bricco Luciani today) as well as the Gallinotto (today the estate also makes a Barolo La Serra, but many other valid wines too, not just Barolo).

The Mauro Molino 2017 Barolo is a joy to drink. Vivid dark red. High-toned, slightly medicinal aromas of ripe raspberry, dried rose petal, candied violet and orange peel. Rich and densely packed, with still backward flavours of red fruits, minerals, licorice and sweet spices, all lifted by intriguing white pepper and floral nuances. Boasting restrained sweetness and focus, but also a fruit-forward, suave mouthfeel, it finishes long and lively with sweet tannins and excellent length.

Really no small feat in a vintage as hot as 2017 was! It is a blend of Nebbiolo grown in different communes: about 80% of the grapes come from the La Morra vineyard districts (or MGAs, if you prefer) of Annunziata and Berri, while the remaining 20% are from Monforte’s Perno district. It’s aged eighteen months in large 25 to 52 hectoliter large French oak barrels. Molino makes about 30.000 bottles of this classic Barolo a year. Drinking window: 2024-2033.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata