Hermitage - A Hermit's Dwelling
"View from Hermitage la chapelle" by Craig Drollett is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Hermitage is a legendary AOC of only 120 hectares which sits on the east bank of the Rhone river, a few kilometers south of Lyon. Surrounded by the appellations of the Rhone valley it lends its name to the hermit who lived there in centuries past. As a matter of fact it's Gaspard de Sterimberg who founded this appellation in 1224. As a knight of Blanche of Castille, after returning from the Albigensian crusade, he was granted permission by Anne of Castille, the queen of Spain, to live as a hermit on the top of this hill. A chapel still marks the spot where he founded the appellation. The vines he planted would first be known as Ermitage named after the french word for hermit "Ermite". It was later changed to Hermitage.
Hermitage has a long history of being the preferred wine appellation of many historical figures. Starting during the reign of Louis XIV when Hermitage was the favourite wine of the Tsars of Russia. Since then its notoriety has not ceased, being loved by many and most notably Henry IV, Boileau, Louis XIII and Louis XIV.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Hermitage wines were some of the most expensive you could find. Many Bordeaux wines were even mixed with a bit of Hermitage to give them an extra depth and complexity.
Map of the Appellation Contrôlée wines of the Rhone Valley
Like many of the appellations that are situated on the banks of the Rhone river, the main varietal found here is Syrah. It produces strong wines with a high alcohol content which is balanced by the body of the wine. This appellation also makes white wines from Marsanne and Roussanne varietals but this remains a small portion of the annual production from this appellation. The reds are known for their strong, meaty character with hints of red berries, most notably with notes of Blackcurrant. These wines also age incredibly well. As for the white wines, they present a lovely yellow colour with notes of honey, peaches and apricot that develop over time. Unlike other white wines these can be kept for decades to come.
The vines on slopes of this appellation benefit from a mediterranean like climate, sheltered from the nothern winds and are southern facing to make the most of the sunlight they receive. The soils are mainly made up of granite accompanied by hints of gravel, flint and limestone.
Some of the main producers from this area are E. Guigal, M. Chapoutier and Paul Jaboulet Ainé.
Ainé's legendary Syrah, La Chapelle, is named after the 13th century chapel that sits on top of the hill.
So what about you have you tried a Hermitage wine? What are your thoughts?
I'd love to know down in the comment section.