The wines of Hermitage, Crozes, Cornas and Saint Joseph
By John Wheeldon
This Guide was last updated on 08 August 2011
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Looking across the Rhône to the small town of Tain l'Hermitage with vineyards on the steep hill of Hermitage behind.
© Mick Rock/Cephas.
This is the heartland of the Northern Rhône section (known here as the Côtes du Rhône Septentrionales) and is home to some of the greatest and longest lived wines in the world. It is also an area of recent and continuing improvement with new and younger winemakers coming to the fore especially in the more reasonably priced areas of Crozes-Hermitage and Saint Joseph. With the exception of the three big négociants, this is an area of small hands-on producers who are very welcoming but only gradually gearing up for wine tourism, though they should make time to see you if you telephone in advance.
Tain l’Hermitage is the main, but small, town together with its twin of Tournon facing it across the river. The footbridge between the two towns provides a fine view of the hill of Hermitage and shows just why this outcrop of granite on the east bank of the Rhône is such a wonderful vineyard. It is a picturesque area and there are excellent drives and walks around the vineyards. If you can, make the time to drive up the hill for the views - the Belvédères du Pays de l'Hermitage - and take the walk down to the famous chapel.
Stretching down the Rhône from north of Tain l'Hermitage to around Valence, the vineyards cling to the slopes overlooking both banks of the River Rhône in this micro-region. These steep vineyard terraces are mainly south and southeast facing, directly exposed to the sun, with well-drained soils of granite, some decomposed mica-schist and alluvial, rounded stones in places. The famous hill of Hermitage gives way to the less steep slopes of the appellation Crozes-Hermitage, with some very good sites. The newer Crozes-Hermitage vineyards to the south are on flatter lands, more easily mechanised and arguably producing less fine wine. Cornas vineyards are on particularly steep, granitic terraces, supported by walls. In the southerly vineyards around Saint-Péray, the granite subsoil may be covered with chalk and loess.
In general, there is a moderate continental climate with hot dry summers and regular rainfall for the rest of the year. The more exposed vineyards can be affected by the Mistral wind, but the vineyards on the striking hill of Hermitage in particular are protected from this at-times fierce wind. The southerly area around Saint Péray is slightly cooler.
This micro-region straddles both banks of the Rhône River and extends to just south of Valence. To reach the area by road from Paris, take the A6 and then the A7 heading south to Tain l’Hermitage, or continue towards Valence for Cornas and St-Péray. Tournon can be reached by passing through Tain l’Hermitage and crossing the bridge over the river. By train, the TGV takes just over two hours direct from Paris to Lyon, where connections can be taken to Tain l’Hermitage, or you can go direct to Valence. By plane, the nearest international airport is at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, or for European flights, Grenoble Saint-Etienne-Saint-Geoirs.
6 Rue des 3 Faucons, 84000 Avignon
Tel: 04 90 27 24 00 Fax: 04 90 27 24 38
Tain l’Hermitage Tourist Office,
Place du 8 Mai 1945, 26600 Tain l’Hermitage
Regional Tournon Tourist Office,
Centre Culturel Tourette, 07301 Tournon sur Rhône
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