Is there a more immediately recognisable hill in the wine world?
A visit to the Northern Rhone is never complete without a trip to the Hermitage Hill. It has become an important rite of passage for so many Rhone wine lovers. Grab a bottle & a baguette and trek to the summit for a truly inspiring view of some of the most beautiful vineyard landscape in the world.
The hard yakka is worth every step - it is so quiet at the top, with the sun beating down you can take a seat by the iconic La Chapelle and feel centuries of winemaking tradition flow through the landscape, with the mighty Rhone river and the town of Tain l'Hermitage in the distance to complete the picture.
'The hill', as it is known amongst Rhone lovers, is a huge chunk of south facing granitic soil that is covered in some 140 hectares of vineyards. Two estates alone account for nearly 55 of those, and a hugely successful cooperative takes up much more, so it is easy to understand the scarcity of land, scarcity of wine and just why there are so few new producers coming through.
Decent parcels coming up for sale are as rare as hens' teeth. In great years, the most noble and upright expressions of Syrah, long lived and densely packed. For the dedicated Rhone fan, the wines of Hermitage are a relative bargain in the context of the fine wine world.
Domaine Gilles RobinGilles Robin took over the running of this vineyard in 1996, with the freedom to produce his own wines. With a history of winegrowing spanning four generations, Gilles' aim was to realise the potential of the 35 year old vines. He immediately used only natural fertilizers and reduced yields to just 40 hectolitres per hectare (8/10 bunches per vine) to give a richer concentration of fruit and quality. A new winery was built into the ground to allow the wines to be moved delicately by gravity, rather than being pumped. Gilles' vineyard now extends to Saint Joseph (where he makes a tiny volume) and Hermitage, the core vineyard averages forty years old, and the wines gain in subtlety and balance with every vintage. Gilles says of his wines, 'there is not a unique Syrah but rather a full spectrum of characteristics and potential expressed by Syrah varieties', to which might be added 'the spectrum of flavours of Syrah on different terroirs' as well, because his vineyards encompass the range of styles the appellation can produce. The 'Rochas' vineyard has deep soils which make for big wines with rustic tannins which take time to soften. It always produces tiny grapes which need fairly strong extraction to get the best of their deep, wild black fruit and spice notes. The 'Monico' vineyard is made up of broken-up rock and little pebbles and a deep clay. The clay retains water well and this is perfect for hot summers. A higher-toned red and black fruit character, ripe blackcurrant and blackberry, with elegant rather than massive tannins. Finally the 'Terres Rouges' vineyard is made of gravels and red clay, typical of the 'Terrasse des Châssis'. The Syrah here displays finesse, elegance and aromatic complexity. The strong iron monoxide content of this plot enables a maximum phenolic maturity. Intense colour, with purple highlights, aromas of violets, black fruits, sweet spices (pepper, nutmeg) and slightly smokiness. On the palate, this Syrah has silky tannins and fine minerality. All of these styles together make for beautifully balanced wines, the different cuvées emphasising the differing characteristics of primal fruit and sophisticated and complex depth. The vineyard has been organic since 2009.
2019 HERMITAGE Domaine Gilles Robin
Not yet tasted, though we have been informed by Gilles Robin that he has is extremely happy with the wine. Hermitage has performed really well in 2019 across all producers, you can safely purchase onNot yet tasted, though we have been informed by Gilles Robin that he has is extremely happy with the wine. Hermitage has performed really well in 2019 across all producers, you can safely purchase on the strength of past performances from Gilles Robin. To be bottled December 2021. Very limited availability.L&S (Mar 2021)