The Central & Eastern Terroirs of Hermitage
- By Jacky Blisson MW
- 15 Nov 2020
- 5 MIN
- Level 101
In the central section of the Hermitage hill, the granitic soils derived from the hill’s historic attachment to the Massif Central gradually give way to Alpine influences. These glacial deposits, typical of terroirs shaped by the Alps, gain greater prominence in Hermitage’s eastern vineyards.
Hermitage’s Central Climats
The central flank of the Hermitage hill is home to two significant climats: Le Méal on the higher slopes, and Les Greffieux underneath. The two vineyards are separated by high stone walls.
According to Northern Rhône expert John Livingstone-Learnmouth, Le Méal is the “ideal counterpart to Les Bessards”. Whereas Les Bessards gives structured, tannic reds, the south-facing, sun-drenched vineyards of Le Méal offer “open, warm textured Syrah”.
Le Méal is relatively flat at its base then rises up sharply into steep slopes, reaching an altitude of 240 metres at its uppermost point. The curved, bowl-like shape of the climat bathes the area in sun. Soils are highly varied, with areas of hard granite, large rocks, and considerable amounts of limestone.
Both red and white grape varieties are cultivated, with more white plantings in the lower part of the vineyard. Famous Le Méal dominant wines include M. CHAPOUTIER’S “Le Méal”, Paul Jaboulet Ainé’s “La Chapelle” and Marc Sorrel’s “Le Gréal”.
Les Greffieux is located at the base of the Hermitage hill, facing due south. These gentle slopeside vineyards possess fertile soils composed from glacial deposits. Clay, variable sized stones, and limestone are most common, with veins of granite.
The climat is mainly planted to Syrah and is said to give light, fragrant, velvety wines. In the lower-lying part of the vineyard, where the soils are deeper, some highly prized Marsanne vineyard plots are to be found.
M. CHAPOUTIER, Jaboulet, Guigal, Bernard Faurie, and Marc Sorrel all have vineyard holdings in this climat.
Major Eastern Climats
The eastern flank of the Hermitage hill was formed by the Alps. This area is far lower in altitude with gentler slopes. It is here that several of Hermitage’s most prized white wine terroirs lie.
Les Murets is a southeast facing, transverse terroir roughly midway up the eastern slopes. The soils range from small alluvial stones and clay at the base to larger galets higher up. M. CHAPOUTIER’S “De l’Orée” is made from old-vine Marsanne planted in Les Murets. According to M. CHAPOUTIER, the Les Murets site yields Marsanne with a very ripe fruit expression, weighty structure, and refreshing bitterness.
These south to southeast facing vineyards lie at the base of the hill, under Les Roucoules and Les Murets. The soil composition is primarily clay and limestone with a layer of rounded pebbles at the surface.
The Syrah blend components from Les Dionnières are dense, powerful, and dark hued. Ferraton makes a noteworthy single parcel red wine here. The Marsanne/Roussanne wines from the climat are often floral and honeyed, with a rich textured and balanced freshness.
Les Dionnières can also be spelled Les Diognières.