Raiding the Cellar for Roussanne

Makers and lovers of Roussanne wines often say they are best consumed either very young or after ten years. In its youth, the variety’s pear and melon notes are fresh and vibrant. It’s gossamer aromas of chamomile and other subtle blossoms are at their most evident.

Tablas Creek

After just a few years of age, those floral notes will have dissipated and the fruit more muted, less distinct. And the complex bouquet which comes with age won’t have developed yet. In short, the wine may be boring.

But there’s hidden depth to Roussanne and acidity which allows it to retain verve for many years in bottle, while it’s myriad molecules mingle and form new compounds. Gentle oxidation will play a small role too. The fresh fruit aromas and flavors turn to dried fruit, but are more intense. Almonds and heady honey emerge. The floral aspects bloom once more, but with greater intensity and, perhaps, a more tropical personality.

Great, Roussanne-heavy wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be phenomenal with 30+ years of bottle age. I have experienced that myself on the rare occasions someone has generously poured me a glass from their collection.

Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Roussanne

Recently, I got a little taste of that from my own cellar. The wine wasn’t three decades old and it wasn’t from Chateauneuf-do-Pape, not even from France. But it had great character and was, after 13 years, still showing not just life, but room for even more development.

I’d opened a 2004 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc Paso Robles (Adelaida District). I bought the wine upon release and had cellared it well, dark and very cool.

In the glass, this blend of Roussanne (65%, not enough to be labeled as a varietal), Grenache Blanc (30%), and Picpoul Blanc (5%) looked its age, clear and bright with yellow color of medium+ intensity. The nose began with appetizing marcona almond and dry grass. And, as the wine breathed in the air and warmed in the glass, it became more and more complex. There was honey, dried stone fruit and lemon. Aromas and flavors of English baking spices, which is less shouty than ours, accented the fruit. Toast and loads of minerality enhanced the mid-palate and finish.

The wine has medium+ body, it’s 14.7% alcohol little in evidence, especially relative to the palate’s steady juiciness and satiny texture. The flavors were very long. All in all, this Tables Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc showed sophistication, notable presence and compelling drinkability. I enjoyed it without food, but it would have been lovely with a meal too, perhaps roast chicken, Dungeness crab sauteed in butter, or mild, aged cheeses.

Grab it if you find it. 92 points.


Copyright Fred Swan 2018. Photos courtesy of Tablas Creek Vineyard. All rights reserved.

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