France, Rhône Valley, Hermitage Rouge

Mar 1, 2011
2011 / March 2011

If you have ever questioned the adjectives used to describe a wine, if you ever wondered whether you, too, can find spice, currants, pepper, blackberries, chocolate, leather and licorice in a whiff of wine, pour a glass of Hermitage Rouge, swirl and sniff.

A rich, classic red wine from France’s northern Rhône Valley, Hermitage Rouge is a product of Syrah grapes grown on one single, steep, terraced hillside near the town of Tain l’Hermitage. Of the hillside’s 326 acres, 77 are owned or controlled by Cave de Tain, making the winery one of the largest single proprietors of the Hermitage hill.

Gambert de Loche founded Cave de Tain in 1933 with 100 members. Today, it represents 330 growers and produces a number of Rhône wines, white and red, including three bottlings of Hermitage Rouge. Its top-of-the-line Hermitage Rouge is fittingly named Gambert de Loche, a deep-shaded, textured, long-lived wine.

These characteristics are apparent in the Gambert de Loche 2006 ($90), whose aroma opens up to blackberries and mushrooms and a slight minerally character and finishes with a long, satisfying aftertaste. It is still young for a Hermitage; to appreciate it at its finest, rest it on its side for a few more years.

The impressive and powerful Gambert de Loche 2005 ($90) is a lush, full-bodied wine of depth and concentrated flavors with a whiff of cinnamon, a hint of chocolate and dark fruits. It shows every sign of aging long and well.

The year 2001 was a classic vintage which the complex Gambert de Loche ($97.50) shows in its suppleness and harmonious nature and tightly packed flavor.

Gambert de Loche 1999 ($97.50) is well structured and well balanced with an aroma that recalls leather and smoke and dark berries. Amazingly youthful for its age.

There is also a Hermitage White, often a blend of Marsanne and Roussane grapes. It tends to be as equally rich and long-lived as its red counterpart. I recently tasted Tain de Cave Hermitage Blanc Au Coeur des Siècles 2006 ($57), a golden-toned wine made entirely of Marsanne from century-old vines. Toasty and aromatic, its nose brings to mind honey and peach, an impression of stewed fruit balanced by a minerally character.

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