Each June, I have the pleasure of tasting through our library vintages of Esprit de Beaucastel and Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc, with the goal of choosing the wines for 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 adding people on our waiting list to the Collector's Edition next week, subject to available space. This is done based in the order in which people joined the waiting list; our current wait time is just over a year. 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.In last year's Collector's Edition shipment, we chose to feature both Esprits from 2006. This year, we'll use the 2005 Esprit red, and move to the 2008 Esprit Blanc. Why the move back in vintage for the red, and up in vintage for the white? The 2007 red didn't taste to me like it was quite ready. It's still tight, laced with iron, with big tannins that seem to me like they need another year to resolve. That's often the case for our most substantial vintages; they spend longer in each stage: youth, where they're exuberant and juicy, with big tannins cloaked by lush fruit; in middle-age, where some of the baby fat has faded and the tannins stand out more; and in maturity, where the tannins have softened and come back into balance with the fruit, and the wine has developed secondary flavors of leather and roasted meat. These flavors are in full evidence in the 2005, as you'll see in the tasting notes below. The 2007 white, on the other hand, was so luscious that we included it in our Collector's Edition shipment back in 2011, and we don't have enough left to include again. So, the 2008 was next in line, and it will be a treat.
My tasting notes:
2008 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc: Shows a deep, rich nose of grilled bread, marzipan, menthol, butterscotch, sage and terragon. The mouth shows powerful flavors of creme brulee, apricot, clove and marmalade. The finish is long and creamy, with peach pit and saline mineral. The wine's flavors broadened steadily as it sat in the glass, and I recommend a decant if you're enjoying it now. If you're considering stashing this in your cellar, my feeling is that it's got a decade ahead of it still.
2005 Esprit de Beaucastel: A richly savory nose of leather, grilled meat, dark red fruit, mint and iron. In the mouth the wine is firm and spicy, with juiciness building through the mid-palate and flavors of blackberry, garrigue, and crushed rock. The wine is meaty, rich, and very dry, with tannins that have softened but are still substantial, though I felt them more on the attack right now than on the very long finish, which showed an appealing chalkiness and notable refinement. This wine, like the white, would also benefit from a decant if you're drinking it now, and should be at the front end of a peak drinking window that will last 15 years or more.