One of the treats we get each summer is to choose which older vintage of the Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc we will include in the VINsider Wine Club Collector's Edition shipment in September. For those of you unfamiliar with the Collector's Edition, we created it in 2009 to give members a chance to acquire our flagship wines with some age on them, and it's been a great success, generating a waiting list each year since we started it. We will be announcing to our VINsiders next week that registration for the Collector's Edition will be open for a short period. We are able to add slightly to the membership in advance of this fall's shipment. [A little housekeeping: if you are currently a VINsider member you can upgrade to the Collector's Edition online. If you are not currently a member, you can indicate that you would like to join the Collector's Edition when you join the VINsider wine club.]
We have been keeping older vintages of the Esprit and Esprit Blanc since the 2003 and 2005 vintages, respectively. So this week, I tasted the 2005 and 2006 red and the 2005, 2006 and 2008 white to see which we could use this year. I had not planned it this way, but it was clear that of the wines that I tasted, the 2005's were both clearly the best choices. The 2006, in both red and white, felt closed down to me, perfectly nice but not nearly as deep or giving as the 2005's, and less expressive than they were a few years ago. The 2008 Esprit Blanc was very pretty, but wasn't yet showing any significant signs of time in the bottle. (If you're wondering why I tasted only those vintages, we used the 2007 Esprit Blanc last year for the Collector's Edition, and I didn't want to repeat with the same wine the following year, and the 2003 and 2004 Esprit red went out to Collector's Edition members the last two years and are now too scarce to permit another release.)
My tasting notes:
2005 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: A rich nose of creme caramel, lanolin, cotton candy, menthol and beeswax. The mouth is rich but higher-toned than the nose suggests, with flavors of pear, butterscotch, preserved lemon and mineral, and a floral note that reminded me of honeysuckle. Surprising and welcome acidity comes to the fore on the long finish, emphasizing the mineral notes and playing off the dominant honeycomb profile. This has come out of a closed phase and is likely at the beginning of a 5-year peak.
2005 Esprit de Beaucastel: The nose is rich, deep and wild, with dark red fruit, game meat, black olive, Provencal herbs and mint. The mouth, conversely to the white, shows sweeter than the nose suggests, with rich flavors of currant, plum, grilled meat and orange peel, with chewy tannins that frame the tangy and complex finish. With air, this added an iron-like mineral note that I found fascinating. I strongly recommend a decant 30 minutes or so before drinking. While this is beautiful now, I have the sense it can age for easily another decade in the cellar.