The 2007 Esprit de Beaucastel is our highest-rated Esprit to date. It got mid-90s ratings from Robert Parker, Stephen Tanzer, and the Rhone Report, and capped off its year by being named the Wine Spectator's #33 wine of 2010. And we sold most of what we had, fast. We typically keep two year's supply of our Esprit red for our tasting room, so we can show two different vintages to people. Because of its ratings, and because it was so showy, we sold our two years' worth in one year. And I understand why: it was luscious and powerful, with big tannins cloaked by generous fruit and an underlying meaty wildness that kept the wine from coming across as either simple or sweet. I'm sure much of it was drunk within a few months of when it was purchased, and enjoyed.
Our Esprit wines have two drinking windows in which we think they are best enjoyed: a window around 3-5 years after the vintage date, when some of the youthful rambunctiousness has had a chance to calm down a touch, but when the wine is still big, juicy, and primary. Then there is a second window, typically in the 8-12 year range, where the wine's tannins have softened, the texture has opened up, secondary characteristics of meat and earth have developed, and the fruit tone has deepened.
You will have noticed that there is a gap in between these two drinking windows, when the wine's tannins are still strong, but the cloaking fruit has receded a bit, and the wine can come across as closed. I've written about this closed phase on the blog, comparing it to being in its teenage years. Not all wines, and not even all of our red wines, go through this phase, but the Esprit red nearly always does. How long it spends in this phase depends on several factors, but tends to be longest for the wines that were the most powerful to start with. This variability is why we recommend that customers bookmark our vintage chart (updated every few months) and why we don't put much stock in predetermining specific drinking windows upon release.
It's been a few years now that we've been waiting for the 2007 Esprit to come out of its closed phase. Yesterday, I opened it, along with some other nearby vintages, as a part of the tasting we do each summer to determine which wines we'll send out to members of the VINsider Wine Club "Collector's Edition". I had been hoping that this 2007 would be ready to go, but it wasn't to be. It had smoothed out greatly since the same tasting last year, but still had a shortness and blockiness on the finish that suggested to us that it will greatly benefit from another year of patience.
I thought I'd share my notes, both to give a sense of where it's at now, and to explain why we think that patience is recommended. The wine:
Tasting Notes (5/28/15): A classic 2007 Esprit nose of hung meat, baking spices, dark red fruit, menthol and leather. The mouth is still massive and thick with fruit, with big tannins. Currant and plum (dark red fruits) predominate over a creamy texture that masks some of the complexity it will have. The tannins build in the wine, and clip the finish. The wine opened significantly with time in the glass (a decant is highly recommended if you're drinking it now) but never lost that clipped character, or the thickness of texture. Check back in another six months, but expect to enjoy for two more decades.
My notes, I hope, explain what someone who opens it now is likely to get: not a bad wine, but a wine that is less than it will be.
What will the wines be that we chose for the 2015 Collector's Edition shipment? Stay tuned!