Hermitage was once part of the Massif Central, but when the river changed its course, it was cut off from Tournon. This small region (± 1356 hectares), spread across the municipalities of Tain-l’Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Larnage, owes its reputation to the unique terroir of the southern slopes in particular. The best red wines come from western side of the hill, from the original Massif terroir. Blessards (granite-rich), Le Méal (chalk and stones) and l’Hermite. The most eastern slopes in Murets and Dionniers, where the soil contains more clay, produce mostly white Hermitage. The vineyards are largely owned by three leading négociants (Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Delas). The signs on the slopes proclaiming their ownership stand in stark contrast to the old Chapelle Saint Christophe, which looms over the vineyards.
The red wines (70% of the production), often of 100% syrah, are very aromatic (violets, black currants, spices), rich in tannin, and have significant aging potential. If they are blended with marsanne and/or roussanne (a maximum of 15% is allowed) they can often be drunk already at young age. The white Hermitage is usually based on marsanne, sometimes blended with roussanne. These sophisticated wines become more complex as they age, developing rich floral (lime-tree blossom, daffodils, iris, almond blossom) and fruit associations (peach, apricot), a slight fattiness, and a pleasantly bitter aftertaste. A vin de paille composed of 100% marsanne is also produced under the AOC Hermitage, but it is rare and very little of it is sold.
In good years, both the white and red Hermitage benefit from ripening between five and ten years in the bottle, and the true aging potential is often only evident after several decades. Wines produced in exceptional vintage can age for up to forty years! For those who can afford them, the Hermitage wines offer an unequalled and sensational tasting experience.