Thomas Jefferson’s favorite wine… and mine!


This wine, together with Petrus and Romanée Conti is considered the very best money (lots of it) can buy.  The name? Château d’Yquem!

My Dad, who was a Wine Merchant (Négociant) for almost 60 years, has had the chance to taste the very best wines throughout his career. Then one day, he went to a dinner party at our friend’s Clara and said she had served the very best wine he had ever had. You guessed it,  it was a Château d’Yquem. The vintage? 1893! Clara’s husband has been a wine collector his whole life and his cellar is a masterpiece.


Château d’Yquem, officially founded in late 1593 is a “Sauternes”. The Sauternes appellation, located just South of Bordeaux, produces dessert wines. It does so naturally (nothing has to be added to raise the sugar levels). They basically harvest extremely late when the fruit is rotten (noble rot). The sugar concentration then is such that they can transform some of the sugar into alcohol and have enough left to keep the wine tasting very sweet. Sauternes wines have a strong apricot, pear and peach note. Their color is on the darker side of fresh honey.

Yquem was first owned in the middle ages by the King of England (also Duke of Aquitaine). It then went to the Sauvage family and the Lur Saluces family. It was sold to the LVMH group (Vuitton, Dior…) in the late 1990s. The owner, Bernard Arnaud hosted his daughter’s wedding there.

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Dessert wines like these are best served chilled with foie gras, Roquefort cheese and dark chocolate desserts. It is also perfect with dishes that include pears, apricots or peaches… If the wine isn’t cold enough, all you’ll be able to focus on is the sweetness of it. Ever tried warm coke? (Coca Cola I mean!).

After Sauternes, my absolute favorites are South African sweet whites. Delicious!!!

Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of Yquem, and although I can’t afford it, it is my favorite wine too! But if, like me, you love dessert wines in general and Sauternes in particular, I suggest you find some  Château Guiraud. The property neighbors Yquem and it is a very special wine indeed. And much much cheaper too ;0)

After Sauternes, my absolute favorites are South African sweet whites. Delicious!!!


The pictures here are of Yquem of course, but also of the Sauternes area. Truly one of the most beautiful and bucolic parts of the Bordeaux wine region…


47 Comments Add yours

  1. Nadia says:

    What a treat to find this post. Having lived in Cape Town for 25 years, I know and love Sourh African wines. We have a lot in common. A good friend recently passed away and had with his last Thanksgiving meal a Chateau D Yquem.
    He collected them. A very special wine indeed.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      So funny. I tasted South African in wine class back at hotel school a million years ago and they were sweet whites. I remember being very impressed and bought some for my dad who was a wine merchant his whole life. He is very protective of French wines, but he quite liked it too…

  2. Would love to taste a Château d’Yquem (probably way above my budget though)! Agree with you re the South
    African sweet wines. De Wetshof used to be one of my favourites. I know it is not very ‘politically correct’ in the rarified wine world, but I also have a particular fondness for Zonnebloem Pinotage. Stellenbosh and Franschhoek is gorgeous!

  3. sb2711 says:

    Lovely pics 🙂

  4. Clanmother says:

    You know that I will arrive one day at your doorstep…

  5. I’ve read of this wine and I love all the things that should be served with it, so… We visited Nuits-Saint-Georges after seeing some of Beaune a few days ago (both gorgeous places) and bought two bottles of amazing wine, one to drink with our hosts/relatives and one to take home and broach in another 4-5 years. Mmmmmmmmm.


  6. Vinny Grette says:

    Have you had a chance to try a good Canadian ice-wine yet? We think they are very nice, too 🙂

  7. Would be so interested to taste this wine, I am generally not a fan of sweet wines, dessert wines but this one sounds intriguing. Very interesting bit of history regarding the illustrious Mr. Jefferson.

  8. Renate Flynn says:

    I am in Heaven reading your blog! This post was so informative and I would love one day to, as Ben Fox states “[have] a drop of Yqem”! But, in the meantime, I am headed back to Paris next month and would like to try a not-too-expensive dessert wine and would love your advice. Shall I request Château Guiraud with foie gras? That sounds like a perfect supper, actually! If you think this a good idea, where should I go and which view should I gaze out upon as I relish these lovely flavors? :o) (It is so fun to plan like this…)

    Best to you, Renate

    P.S. Again, your photography is so beautiful…

  9. juliabarrett says:

    Holy shemoly! Wine moving through history! Gotta get me some of those! Not the most expensive but the others. Your father was a lucky man!

  10. Ah, your photos… so dream-like!!!

  11. ladyredspecs says:

    I was fortunate once, just once to try a D’Yquem a vintage from the 50s. It was stunning. There are some excellent sauternes style wines made in Australia too, De Bortoli Noble One is my preferred label.

  12. I don’t know a lot about wines but I do know what I lobe and that is any sweet wine. Dessert wines sound like the type I generally like.

    1. I hate auto correct. The word is “love”! 🙂

  13. Savoury Image says:

    I love dessert wines and foie gras. You are making me miss France. I live in the land of ice wine but I prefer a Sauterne as well.

    am really enjoying your blog.

  14. Wonderful wine. I’m also a fan of German Ausleses and Eiswein which is more affordable, not so famous and absolutely delicious. I had some bottles left from a previous life ( when I collected wine which I have since had to auction) which I enjoyed with some friends in a recent hot spell. Lovely pictures.

  15. Melisa says:

    Stephane you and your beautiful blog have inspired me to buy my ticket to Bordeaux! It is one of the only regions of France I have not had at the pleasure of exploring – what a shame – as I’m sure it’s one of the most beautiful! I have to stay au centre ville because I will be taking a class during my stay, but I would love to look you up and meet you and visit your B&B for my next stay – I feel like I already know you:)…


  16. Steve says:

    We still have a bottle of Château Guiraud left from our visit with you last Summer. Bought 4, drank 3 already. Delicious.

  17. I love reading your blog. The wine knowledge here is exceptional, but still approachable for someone like me. 🙂 I had my first wine, a Rioja, in Spain, in 2004. I continue to be amazed by the variety of wine, and the special skill and patience it takes to make a lovely bottle. Speaking of the aforementioned wine, I saw this:

    Enjoy a glass of your lovely bordeaux for me. Cheers, Stéphane!

  18. mckinneyjodi says:

    I’m not a huge sweet dessert wine lover, but your words and photos make me want it! The sign of a truly gifted writer! 🙂 Not sure if this could even come close to comparing, but in the region I live in – certainly not known for wines like France or Napa Valley, etc., but we have a small stretch of wineries along the Lake Erie region of Pennsylvania and Ohio, and they produce an ICE wine that is a sweet dessert wine. Sipping it ICE Cold is kind of good. I also always keep a bottle of Limoncello in my freezer. YUM!

  19. jpkenna says:

    I suppose it would be a bit like a Washington state late-harvest Riesling–only far better, and more costly.
    I’m not sure what Tom Jefferson thought of Riesling.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      There was a reference in one of the earlier posts about a book written on Jefferson and his wines… I’ll have to cm-heck it out…

  20. Ben Fox says:

    Someday . . . . someday I’ll be able to afford a drop of Yquem. I look forward to that experience. It is interesting that you reference Thomas Jefferson. I have a book entitled Thomas Jefferson on Wine by John Hailman which goes into this. Huge fan of French wine. Interesting read. A visit to Jefferson’s home at Monticello is also a great experience if you’re ever in the states. His dumbwaiter creation on the side of the dining room fireplace is a sight to see. Certainly one of the first (and most famous) American oenophiles. Great post. Thanks for another glimpse into life in and around Bordeaux!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am fascinated by Jefferson. When you come visit me, I will take you for a tour of Yquem. One of the best way to taste it without having to sell the car 😉

  21. Luffy Moogan says:

    Fabulous. We have monbazillac and vic bilh, but this is the tops. Beautiful photos. Such history. Am listening to an audiobook on Eleanor of Aquitaine as this post popped up, and have just got to the bit on her marriage to Louis of France in Bordeaux and somehow it seems appropriate..:-)

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really is! Try to find a movie called “A lion in Winter” with Katherine Hepburn. Really good! I wish we were still British! When you come visit, I will take you to the Black Prince’s chapel. It is a stone throw away from my house…

      1. Luffy Moogan says:

        You tempter, you. I’ve seen the film – it’s stunningly good. They don’t make them like that any more! The local history looks totally intriguing and I would be fascinated to see it..

        1. My French Heaven says:

          It’s a date!

  22. Vasun says:

    Stephane, I love this post as both my husband and I love dessert wines! Which types of S African white dessert wines would you recommend?

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh I wouldn’t as I haven’t had any in almost 20 years when I was in hotel school… This shows what a great impression they made on me. If you do some research on your side, please let me know which one you decided to try first. Better yet, post about it… The whole country and culture fascinates me…

      1. Vasun says:

        Was hoping for tips from u 😦 Well, if I’m there, I’ll try out & post on any (if there are any) I’ve never come across a SA wine that I’ve liked though

  23. I can feel the need to move the priority of our next visit to France higher on the list of planned trips….you are a terrible tease! Meanwhile, back in the Charlottesville area in Virginia, there are a number of wineries that can make for quite a fun weekend visit.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m sure! American wines are getting better and better all the time and I’ve heard really good things about yours. I am by no means a wine specialist, but I am fascinated by the process and so adumbrative of craftsmen and women who give their whole lives to the betterment of their beloved wines and properties… See you soon in Bordeaux though! I’ll have so many things to show you and feed you, it will make your heads spin 😉 😀

      1. And I will have to bring some bottles of some of Oregon’s Pinot Noir….we’ll do a blind taste test and pick which we like better!

  24. maddiehugo says:

    I’m already planning another trip to Bordeaux and a definite visit to you. I live on the Cape Winelands of South Africa. What SA Sweet wine can I bring you?

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are so lucky Maddie! I have always been attracted to your country… Oh the scenery!!! I’m just very scared of spiders and snakes 😦 As for wine, anything you like will make me happy for sure. The last time I had SA wine, I was still in college… See you soon 😉

  25. What an intriguing piece of history, Stephane. I’m particularly fond of King Henry, Duke of Aquitaine 🙂 And South African sweet wines–adore!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Was he the one married to Eleonore? I think he was. Henry II right? Now that’s a great story to write about… I have always been fascinated by that woman. Ever watched A Lion In Winter with Katherine H? Great movie!!

  26. Very fascinating remark about Thomas Jefferson’s wine preferences. I knew he loved wine but did not know what type or types were his favorites. Thanks for the info!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m sure he liked many other wines, but he was the one who made Yquem famous in the US. Celebrity marketing always works I guess 😉

  27. Le Photidien says:

    Quelles superbes couleurs ! Et le side by side avec la vigne est splendide.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ah merci beaucoup! J’ai pris ces photos il y a déjà quelques temps et j’avais un peu peur de la qualité du post. Vous me rassurez 😉

  28. Chris says:

    Well at least I know Foie Gras of quality is still available, lol.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It is our specialty in the South West of France Chris. There would be another French revolution is someone tried to put an end to the foie gras production 😉

      1. Chris says:

        Oh I agree, I went to Toulouse which then led my father and myself to the Périgord region and I have said enough.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Oh the Périgord! I call it my own private fairyland… Half my family comes from there. I had truffles on my eggs the other day. That’s another specialty I couldn’t live without… Thanks again for your comments Chris!

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