Your Red Wine Guide – Hermitage

Region – Northern Rhône
Grape varieties – Syrah
Style – Raspberry, blackcurrant, plum, herbs, tar and woodsmoke

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     During the 19th century, Hermitage was given the backhanded compliment of being allowed into claret to provide backbone, stuffing and, simply, taste. Then it sank back into oblivion. Fortunately for wine-lovers, but unfortunately for their wallets, this Syrah-based wine from the northen Rhône has now been rediscovered. on this steep, sun-baked, south-facing hill above the town of Tain, Syrah achieves a delicious power and, in the best of mature bottles, a glorious complexity that is hard to beat.

     The appelation laws actually allow a small proportion of the white grapes Roussanne and Marsanne to be blended in. Any blending that goes on in Hermitage occurs when a producer has holdings on different parts of the hill, some of which bring perfume, others structure and so on. Only those whith extensive vineyard holdings have the luxury  of being able to pour together the perfect wine, but then they do and the vintage is a good one, the results rank among the very greatest red wines in the world.

The taste it runs up and down the scales of flavour from raspberry to blackcurrant to plum, through herbs, briar, spice and pepper, from youthful inky insensity to mature tar, woodsmoke and leather, composing wonderful music along the way. Its concentrated fruit and high tannin make it a candidate for oak ageing. The structure built into Hermitage means that there is no point in opening a bottle much before it is ten years old; in riper vintages, consider 20 years the norm but be prepared to wait for 30.


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