“We did everything that we could, but unfortunately nature was not on our side this year; the weather didn't allow us, in spite of our best efforts and our great sites,” said Pierre Lurton, director of the only Sauternes estate ranked premier cru classé A.
“A brand like Yquem should know when not to make a wine... [in order to maintain] the image of one of the best white wines in the world, to keep Yquem in the history books," Lurton added. "It was with good reason that we have not made one [in 2012]."
This is not the first time the château has decided against producing its nobly rotted sweet wine. The weather gods also deserted Yquem in 1900, 1915, 1930, 1951, 1952, 1964, 1972, 1974 and 1992. Clearly, years ending in "two" do not treat Yquem kindly. “It's as if there's a curse on us every 20 years,” Lurton suggested.
The estate is now owned by luxury goods giant LVMH and the decision has been taken after consultation with the company's owner, Bernard Arnault. “He has a vision of excellence and the sustainability of these big brands, and it's better not to make one,” Lurton said.
At the start of the harvest, there was hope that the fruit would make the cut, but wet weather during the picking season conspired against the spread of noble rot. The ideal conditions for botrytis cinerea (noble rot) are misty mornings followed by warm, dry afternoons. These allow the grapes to shrivel, increasing the concentration of flavor, sugars, glycerol, and acetic acid levels.
“At the beginning, we picked some interesting things but that was followed by a lot of rain, which meant the vintage slipped away from us," explained Lurton. "The wine lacks fullness and there has never been a good level of concentration."
With 100,000 bottles produced on average each year, the decision not to produce a wine from 2012 could represent a loss of 25 million euros ($32.9m), but Lurton insisted the estate was not stressed about the financial losses.
“We do not think in terms of sales turnover, but about the long term because we have other vintages, which allow us to even out our profit and loss sheet,” he said.
Lurton believes that the lost 25 million euros “will allow Yquem to record an image of perfection, elitism and excellence.
“It will pay off in the long run, we have so many great vintages in the future yet to write about.”