Domaine Jean Esprit, Crozes-Hermitage
Domaine Jean Esprit, Crozes-Hermitage

Domaine Jean Esprit, Crozes-Hermitage

Northern Rhône, France 2022 (750mL)
Regular price$40.00

Domaine Jean Esprit, Crozes-Hermitage

The Northern Rhône has officially gone the way of Burgundy. That is, the wines have never been better, but it takes a great deal of diligent searching to find a truly great bottle at anything like a reasonable price. Every once in a while, like with today’s Crozes-Hermitage from Jean Esprit, the search pays off in spades. This is impeccable Crozes, as close to a textbook example of the village’s spicy, juicy, pastille-coated charms as can be had in the US. And like so many in Burgundy, this hidden gem turns out to have an enviable pedigree: the Esprit vineyards are located smack-dab between Domaines Combier and Graillot, the town’s two most celebrated producers. In fact, before son Jean took the reins, the Esprit family’s organic Syrah went into Graillot’s famously elegant (and coveted) cuvées, but a small portion is now bottled under the family name for our drinking pleasure. Surefire values like Esprit don’t come often in the Northern Rhône anymore, and it’s just a matter of time before collectors fight as ferociously for bottles of Esprit as they do for Graillot. So act fast and go deep!

The Esprit family has been farming in Crozes-Hermitage since 1909, long before it was even a wine appellation. Since then, it’s remained the rare diversified farm in the village. It’s planted to not just the classic Syrah, Marsanne, and Roussanne, but also cherries, apricots, and barley. This despite the fact that it occupies some of the most sought-after viticultural land in the appellation. Here on the hillsides surrounding the town, where the soils are a mix of red clay and huge smooth stones left behind by the receding Alps, Syrah is imbued with lift and elegance to complement the appellation’s signature fleshy stylings. It’s this precision that marks out the choicest wines in the appellation, the common thread among the producers here who can stand with the best of Saint-Joseph and Cornas. 

Jean Esprit now represents the fifth generation of his family to work this land. His forerunners were strictly farmers, selling their grapes to their famous neighbors and garnering them global critical acclaim in the process. But Jean took a different tack, having recognized that fruit this special deserves to bear his family’s imprimatur. So he studied enology in Beaune, got jobs at wineries in New Zealand and the south of France, and returned home in 2017. From the get go his goal was quality above all else – he built a brand new winery operated entirely by gravity, rebuilt the aging cellar, and meticulously mapped the parcels he wanted to highlight. Jean continues to sell a large portion of his crop, but only after he’s first selected out the prime fruit he wants to keep for himself. 

Today’s wine comes from the hillside parcel immediately behind Jean and his wife Lydia’s home. These fifteen-year-old vines sit on a unique clay-limestone terrace, accounting for more grace and breed than we expect to see even from the village’s top wines. The fermentation and aging take place entirely in stainless steel to further emphasize drinkability. It opens with a rush of berry fruit, ranging from redcurrants to black raspberry to mulberry, overlain with violet and lavender floral tones. Syrah’s signature hung meat and white pepper aromas, that whiff of woodsmoke, are present, but serve as engaging accents rather than the focal point. The palate is medium-full, a wash of black fruit buttressed by juicy acidity and a wrap of wispy tannins. This begs to be drunk now but also promises some serious medium-term upside. For a young producer in such a hallowed region, this is a loud pronouncement of a wine, ready to capture every Rhône lover’s heart. Cheers!

Domaine Jean Esprit, Crozes-Hermitage

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