Chateau d’Yquem will not be producing a 2012 vintage after harvest rain prevented the grapes from reaching the levels of concentration required to make the world’s most famous sweet wine.
Pierre Lurton, who runs the celebrated estate behind the Sauternes wine for its main shareholder LVMH, said the decision, which will cost the luxury goods group tens of millions of euros, had been taken to maintain Yquem’s reputation for excellence.
Despite advances in technology, the production of sweet wine in the Sauternes area of southwestern France remains hugely vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.
The sweetness of the wine comes from grapes that have been left on the vines long enough to be affected by noble rot, which bolsters sugar levels and imparts the complex notes of fruit, honey and nuts that make Sauternes the benchmark for dessert wines around the world.
For the rot to develop, producers rely on a combination of autumnal morning mists and mid-day sunshine that occur most but not all years.
“We were cropping some good stuff at the beginning (of the harvest) this year but then we had a lot of rain,” Lurton said. “The quantity was not good and the concentration was not there.”
With an average production of 100,000 bottles per year, the decision to cancel output means foregoing around 25 million euros ($33 million) of sales.
“We don’t reason in terms of turnover, we take a long-term view. We may have lost sales this year but we have maintained Yquem’s reputation for excellence.