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Finding the right Château d’Yquem food pairing can be a challenge–although Yquem is an intense and powerful wine, some foods will overpower its complex flavors. I know a wine enthusiast who served a bottle of 1947 Château d’Yquem alongside a platter of very strong cheese (including blue cheese and aged asiago). The bold flavors of the blue cheese completely overwhelmed his palate and he could no longer taste the Yquem properly. Frustrated after this experience, he decided to only drink Yquem on its own in the future or to pair it with very delicate, mild foods like lobster or fresh pear. He’s now afraid to serve the wine with anything too bold or savory.
However, you don’t have to avoid flavorful foods entirely when you serve Yquem at a tasting party or intimate dinner. Just take into account Yquem’s full flavor profile and select dishes that highlight (rather than compete with) this iconic wine, and you’ll create the perfect atmosphere for enjoying one of the world’s greatest white wines.
Château d’Yquem Food Pairings: Sweet Dishes
Yquem is so sweet and delectable that it’s often served on its own after the meal is over; it’s simply a superb dessert wine that doesn’t need any accompaniment. That said, some of the most enjoyable Château d’Yquem food pairings I’ve ever had match the wine with desserts or fresh fruit. The right dessert can bring out the honeyed notes in the wine and may even help you identify more subtle flavors such as tropical fruit and spice. Château d’Yquem is about more than just sweetness–it has a deep complexity that certain food pairings will help bring to the forefront.
Before you decide on a sweet dish to pair with your Yquem wines, consider the age of your bottle. In its youth, Yquem has notes of honey and tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango. However, when the wine reaches a certain age (this generally takes at least 25 years of cellaring), it develops deeper caramel, vanilla, and toasted notes, which start to replace the fresh fruit flavors. Because the flavor profiles of old Yquem and young Yquem differ so greatly, you’ll need to take the age of your bottle into consideration as you select your food pairings. Right now, any wines made before 1990 will pair best with foods that include some caramel or toasted flavors, whereas wines made after 1990 are best served with fresher, lighter ingredients, such as fruit or desserts that are lightly sweetened with honey.
Here are a few Château d’Yquem food pairing suggestions if you plan on serving the wine with dessert:
- 2015 Yquem and poached pears: While you should probably hold onto this bottle for a longer period of time, if you want to drink it young, pair it with any mild poached fruit. Pear will bring out the tropical flavors in the wine.
- 2005 Yquem and apple cake: A lightly-spiced apple cake will bring out some of the developing spice flavors in this decade-old wine. The 2005 vintage still has plenty of fresh fruit flavors, which the baked apples in the cake will complement beautifully. If you make the cake using honey, you can also mimic some of the honeyed notes in the wine.
- 1986 Yquem and crème brûlée: When I tried my first bottle of Yquem, the wine was almost 30 years old and tasted amazingly like my favorite dessert–crème brûlée. With notes of caramel, vanilla, and torched sugar, crème brûlée is a classic Yquem food pairing that works especially well for older bottles that have developed these mature, toasted flavors.
The most important tip to remember when you pair Château d’Yquem with sweets is to ensure that the dessert isn’t noticeably sweeter than the wine. If it’s too sweet, it may make the wine taste more acidic by comparison. You can always serve the Yquem on its own first and then enjoy a dessert afterward if you find that the dessert you picked is too sweet.
Château d’Yquem Food Pairings: Savory Dishes
While you’ll most often see wine enthusiasts order crème brûlée or fruit alongside a glass of Yquem, sweet dishes aren’t your only option. Food and wine pairings can either complement or contrast, and some savory foods go beautifully with Yquem because of their contrast with the wine’s sweet flavor profile. Serving savory food with Yquem is like sprinkling salt on a bar of chocolate; the contrast can make the sweetness and flavor characteristics stand out even more. In fact, one of my colleagues actually prefers pairing Yquem with savory foods. She finds the combination of dessert and Yquem far too much of one thing and prefers to drink her wine with homemade potato chips instead. It’s a surprising–yet delicious–combination.
Here are a few options for pairing Château d’Yquem with something more savory:
- 2000 Yquem and a cheese platter: The soft, mild flavor of cheese like Camembert or Brie allows the complexity of the Yquem to shine through without overpowering the wine at all. If you’re more adventurous and you have an especially intense, rich vintage of Yquem (such as the 1975) then you can also pair it with a stronger cheese like Roquefort. In general, the older and more powerful the Yquem is, the better it can stand up to the flavors of a powerful cheese. Avoid strong blue cheese or extensively aged cheese if your wine is still young.
- 2001 Yquem and lobster: The rich creaminess of lobster is an ideal pairing for any Yquem vintage, whether you have an older bottle or a young wine. Lobster is also mild in flavor, making it a versatile food to serve with virtually any white wine. The slight sweetness of lobster tail also mimics that of Sauternes without overwhelming your palate with sugar.
- 2013 Yquem and foie gras: This is a classic Château d’Yquem food pairing because the silky rich flavor of foie gras matches that of Yquem. In fact, this pairing is so rich that many wine enthusiasts only serve foie gras with younger Yquem vintages; the higher acidity from the young wine helps cut through the dense flavors of the foie gras.
While it is fun to pair Yquem with savory foods once in a while, sweet pairings tend to be an easier and more natural choice. When pairing Yquem with a savory dish, it’s easy to choose foods that are too salty or complex in flavor. If you plan to serve your Yquem with savory foods, avoid adding multiple herbs or spices to the dish–just flavor your ingredients with salt as needed and save your complicated rémoulade for another day.
Experimenting with Different Yquem Food Pairings
The best Château d’Yquem food pairing depends on the occasion and your preferences. As you try new food pairings, you can keep track of the ones you enjoyed most using a mobile tasting note app. Taking detailed tasting notes in the moment allows you to fully appreciate the tasting experience and replicate it for future events. For example, if you try a bottle of 2000 Yquem with an array of different cheeses at home, note which types paired best with the vintage. Later, if you decide to bring that vintage to a tasting party or host one yourself, you’ll know exactly which foods to bring with you. Experimenting with different flavors at home can help you find the pairings that excite your palate and bring out all the rich, complex flavors of these iconic Bordeaux wines.
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