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Best Hermitage Wine: A Deep Dive Into This Historic Region
Hermitage is a renowned wine originating from the small region in the northern Rhône Valley of France.
As a historical site with a strong wine tradition dating back over two thousand years, Hermitage produces some of the most complex and long-lived wines in the world.
So let’s find out more about it!
Table of Contents
What is Hermitage Wine?
The Hermitage Hill is one of, if not the most famous hillside vineyard wine region in the world. Because its known as the birthplace or home of Syrah!
The wine region is quite small, spanning only about 140 hectares, which contributes to the exclusivity and rarity of the wines produced here. It’s situated in and around the town of Tain l’Hermitage. Additionally, the south-facing slope of the hill provides the ideal amount of sunlight for grape-growing, ensuring that the grapes are able to fully ripen and develop their unique flavors and aromas.
These wines from the Hill of Hermitage have power, depth, and ability to age for many years, even decades. They represent some of the highest expressions of the Syrah grape (for reds) and the Marsanne and Roussanne grapes (for whites).
Hermitage produces both red and white wines. The red wine is primarily made from Syrah grapes, and in some instances, it can be blended with up to 15% of white Marsanne or Roussanne grapes. While white wines from Hermitage are made from Marsanne and Roussanne grapes.
The hill’s unique terroir, with its diversity of soil types ranging from loess and clay to granite. Plus its south-facing slope provides ample sunlight and protection from the harsh northern winds.
For these reasons, the terroir significantly contributes to the wine’s distinctive characteristics.
Historic Roots of Hermitage Wine
The history of Hermitage is as fascinating as the wine itself. In the beginning, Romans were the first to cultivate vineyards in the Hermitage area.
However, the region’s name didn’t come into existence until much later, supposedly derived from the legend of the knight Gaspard de Stérimberg. After being wounded in the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade, Stérimberg retreated to this hill, where he became a hermit, hence the name ‘Hermitage’.
Also, the iconic chapel situated on top of the hill was built to pay homage to Saint Christopher and today is owned by Paul Jaboulet Âiné.
Viticulture in Hermitage has endured through the centuries, surviving the French Revolution, the devastation caused by the phylloxera pest in the late 19th century, and both World Wars. Today, it stands as a beacon of high-quality, traditional winemaking.
What Are The Best Hermitage Wines?
1) Jean-Louis Chave Selection
Jean-Louis Chave is one of the most respected names in the Rhône Valley and their Hermitage wines are considered benchmarks for the region. The Chave family has been making fine wine in Hermitage since the 15th century, making it one of the oldest family-run wineries in the world. And their reds and whites are both highly prized for their complexity and aging potential.
2) Paul Jaboulet Ainé
This winery’s Hermitage La Chapelle is one of the most iconic wines from the region. The 1961 vintage is considered one of the greatest wines ever made. Their white Hermitage, Le Chevalier de Sterimberg, is also highly regarded.
3) E. Guigal
4) M. Chapoutier
Michel Chapoutier is one of the most recognizable names in the Rhône Valley. And one of the first large, well known wineries to fully embrace biodynamic viticulture. His selection of single vineyard Hermitages, both red and white, are highly acclaimed for their purity of fruit and expression of terroir.
5) Delas Frères
In 1993, the Champagne house Louis Roederer acquired Delas Frères. This winery’s Hermitage “Les Bessards” is made from Syrah grapes grown in the Bessards vineyard, known for its granitic soils. It is recognized for its depth, complexity, and aging potential.
6) Domaine Marc Sorrel
Though lesser known than some of its counterparts, Domaine Marc Sorrel produces an excellent Hermitage wine, Le Gréal, which has earned a reputation for its elegance and longevity.
Hermitage Vintage Chart
Why Hermitage Wine Is So Expensive?
- Unique Terroir: The Hermitage region, although small, boasts a distinct terroir with a variety of soil types and a south-facing slope that provides ample sunlight. Therefore, this unique terroir lends a specific character to the grapes grown here, and by extension, the wine produced.
- Limited Production: The small size of the Hermitage region (only about 140 hectares) limits the quantity of wine produced, making it rare and sought after. Thus, exclusivity translates into higher prices and a reputation for luxury.
- Quality of Grapes: The primary grapes used for Hermitage wines are Syrah for reds and Marsanne and Roussanne for whites. These grape varieties thrive in the Hermitage terroir and produce wines of exceptional quality.
- Complexity and Aging Potential: Red Hermitage wines have lots of complexity and depth of flavor. Plus, they have a high aging potential, with flavors evolving and maturing over time, often over decades, adding to their allure.
- Historical Significance: The history of winemaking in the Hermitage region dates back to Roman times. Over centuries, the best wines from this region have been highly praised and sought after, contributing to their prestige.
- Traditional Winemaking Practices: Many Hermitage winemakers adhere to traditional winemaking practices, such as hand-picking grapes and aging wine in oak barrels. Therefore these methods produce higher-quality wines.
Hermitage Wine And Food Pairings
Red Hermitage Wines:
- Red meats such as beef, lamb, or venison. A classic pairing is a grilled or roasted lamb.
- Game birds like duck or quail.
- Rich stews or beef short ribs braised.
- Strong, mature cheeses like cheddar or gouda.
- Dishes with mushrooms or truffles, as the earthy flavors in the food will complement similar flavors in the wine.
White Hermitage Wines:
- Rich seafood dishes like lobster or scallops in a creamy sauce.
- Poultry dishes, particularly those with creamy or buttery sauces.
- Veal or pork, especially when served with a rich, white sauce.
- Certain cheeses like camembert or brie.
- Dishes with nuts, as the nutty flavors in the wine will complement the food.
What is the primary red grape of Hermitage?
The primary red grape used in the production of Hermitage wine is Syrah.
While Syrah is the dominant grape, up to 15% of white grapes, Marsanne and Roussanne, can be co-fermented in red Hermitage. Although this practice is less common today than it once was. But these white grapes can help to stabilize the color and soften the intense tannins of the Syrah.
What is the primary white grape of Hermitage?
The primary white grape varietals used in the production of Hermitage white wine are Marsanne and Roussanne.
A white Hermitage can be made from either 100% Marsanne or a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne.
What is the most expensive Hermitage wine?
The 1961 vintage of Hermitage La Chapelle is particularly famous and has fetched extraordinarily high prices. Due to its reputation as one of the greatest wines ever made. Currently you can find this bottle of wine being sold of for ~$45K.
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