Hermitage is a French wine (AOC) located in the northern Rhone wine region of France. It mainly produces red wine from the Syrah grape however, small amounts of white wine are also produced from Roussane and Marsanne grapes. Hermitage hill, which overlooks the Rhone river, is seen by some as the spiritual home of the Syrah grape. The wines red produced here are generous and well balanced. They can be cellared for long periods (10-20 years) and become smooth and mellow with age.
Many believe that the vineyards of Hermitage are the oldest in France, with the Greeks planting the first vines in 500 B.C. The Romans are also documented to have cultivated vines in this region.
According to legend, Hermitage got it's name after a Knight by the name of Gaspard de Sterimberg returned home wounded from the Albigensian Crusade in 1224. He was seeking shelter to recover in. He built a small refuge at the top of the largest hill in the area. He then lived out his life in seclusion as a hermit (ermite in French)
Over the centuries the reputation of the wines produced in this area grew. It became a favorite of the Russian Imperial Court, and Thomas Jefferson gained a love for Hermitage wines.
The Hermitage appellation covers 140 ha (345 acres) on the right bank of the Rhone River, in the Drome department. The growing area includes Tain L'Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage and Larnage. The vines grow on the South west side of a steep granite hill, catching the afternoon sun. The soils are chiefly of granite and gravel compositions, and the area produces about 730,000 bottles of wine annually.
These wines are an inky black to deep garnet color, with mellow tannins and the aroma is very much of black fruits and spice. The flavor is robust with raspberry or blackberry flavors, and sometimes hints of smoke and pepper. These wines will age very well, from 10 to 20 years is not out of the question, and become smoother as the years go by. They pair well with hearty food such as beef and game. They can also be enjoyed with spicy foods like Mexican and Indian. Wines produced in Hermitage are some of the finest examples of wine to be found, but are priced accordingly.