This Thirsty Thursday we open a white wine from Hermitage: a region in the Northern Rhone Valley of France famed for its rich Syrah (so rich, that Bordeaux once “hermitaged” its reds with wine from here).
Times have changed. 345 acres of vines cling to steep slopes, producing intense, tannic, Syrah that can age half a century. But rare whites from Hermitage can be equally fantastic (if pricy).
The ever-animated Michel Chapoutier produced today’s biodynamic white, oddly, from 100% Marsanne grapes (forgoing Roussanne, because he dislikes it). They arrive, hand-harvested from his Chante-Alouette vineyard of clay and limestone soil. After all kinds of gentle fermentation, a third in large barrels, tasting, lees stirring and nearly a year of aging, the wine find its way into my fridge. Since it costs around $90, I tease it out with a Coravin.
The APPEARANCE: looks an easy, clear, golden color, with a wash of glue for legs. AROMAS: exude clover honey, gold pear, shaved almond, ginger, and saline solution. The PALATE: jumps at us, dry, with medium acidity, a warm but medium 13.5% abv, and a medium plus body. What matters here is texture: it slips, viscous and smooth, yet the finish seems sprightly, assertive and dry. FLAVORS: coat and last a lifetime, with deceptively soft gold pear, honey, ginger, and hay.
Chapoutier’s 2012 Hermitage Blanc is one of those rare, seemless sunsets over a hay field. At just the right moment, every inch glows an intense yet warm gold of varying hues. It is outstanding (5 of 5) and has decades in it to go. But, right now, grill a chicken or slice some ripe pear or toss golden raisins on a salad with goat cheese and be happy.