Domaine des Remizieres, Cuvee Emilie, AOC/AOP Hermitage, Rhone, 2005
Hermitage – one of the greatest classic French reds, with 80% production at premium prices. Wines are of a deep colour, full-bodied, silky; plummy, violets, blackcurrant, blackberry, smoky bacon … Whites are also produced from marsanne and roussanne.
The appellation is sited on a magnificent south-facing steep hill, overlooking the village of Tain, on the Rhone, at 150-350m altitude. The vineyard is limited by decree to 131ha. The climate is continental, and is at the most northerly limit for ripening syrah, helped by the southerly aspect which protects from the cool northerly Mistral, allowing the grapes to mature to a generous level of ripeness. Soils to the west are decomposed granite, which act as a storage heater, with more glacial deposits in the form of pudding stones and clay to the east (witnessing that the Rhone used to flow to the east rather than the west of the hill), which better suits marsanne and roussanne – the only permitted varieties in white Hermitage. Vines are bush trained (aka gobelet) to a single stake; the land is too steep for any form of mechanisation, and soil erosion is an issue.
The lightest and most aromatic wines are from the higher altitude sites, lower down, the wines become more tannic, these are the most powerful longest lived wines, which improve for many years.
The reds are usually varietal syrah, though up to 15% marsanne and/or roussanne may be added. Vinification of reds is essentially traditional with a relatively hot fermentation; the best wines have a 10-50 year ageing window, with prices to match. The top wines fetch £150-250, but there are plenty at £50-100.
Production is dominated by just 4 producers: Chave, Chapoutier, Jaboulet and Delas.
Nez du Vin suggests these notes for a red Hermitage: blackcurrant, bilberry, violet, vanilla, cinnamon, clove, pepper, musk and smoke.
This wine: varietal syrah, a modern styled Hermitage wine that is aged in 80% new French oak barrels, natural cork closure, 14% abv, Wine Society, £38
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, deep intensity ruby, showing tears.
Nose: clean on the nose, of pronounced intensity, developing, with aromas of moderately high-toned black fruit – sweet ripe black cherry, black berry, lesser blackcurrant, softer black plum; spent coffee grounds, liquorice, tar, white pepper with a hint of sweet gunpowder (the aroma of a spent shotgun cartridge as it used to be).
Palate: a dry wine, medium (+) acidity, medium (+) fine-grained grippy tannins, medium (+) alcohol and medium (+) body, a smooth texture, medium (+) intensity, with flavours of ripe black berry and black cherry, with a slight medicinal edge. A long length with a clean black cherry infused grippy finish.
Quality: a very good quality wine, but one gets the feeling that the tannins need more time to come around, that is they are a little out of balance with the intensity of flavour; otherwise lots of complexity on the nose with signs of tertiary development on nose and palate, and quite concentrated with a good length. There is fruit and structure to suggest further ageing of 3-5 years would be beneficial.