Hermitage is the northern Rhone's most famous red wine appellation. A small district, Hermitage produces remarkably rich, deeply-colored, aromatic red wines made only from Syrah, and complex white wines blended from Marsanne and Roussane. In the 18th and 19th century, Hermitage wines commanded prices akin to First-Growth Bordeaux.
Hermitage is located on a granitic hill of about 311 acres, with southern exposure, and a number of different soil types divided into various climats within the vineyard. The granite and exposure encourage optimal ripening of the grapes. So closely is the variety Syrah identified with the appellation that in Australia, Hermitage is sometimes used as a synonym for Shiraz (the Australian name for Syrah). The Rhone Valley of southern France is a particularly fascinating wine region, with a history that stretches back to at least six hundred BCE, when the ancient Greeks first began cultivating vines there. The region itself is split into two distinct sub-regions, with the northern sub-region being famed for its production of exceptional Syrah, Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier wines, packed full of interesting character and expressing the terroir found there. The southern sub-region is home to an enormous variety of grapes, and produces red, white and rosé wines, and some of the world's most famous and adored blended wines. The continental climate of the region is ideal for growing grapes, and the winds which blow from the Central Massif help temper the heat in the vineyards, leading to very ripe fruits holding plenty of flavor. Known as Syrah in most countries around the world, and Shiraz in Australia and certain other regions of the New World, this grape varietal has proven over the centuries to be one of the most powerful and flavorful red wine grapes there is. It is now one of the planet's most widely grown grapes, and is a favorite with wineries as a result of its robustness and versatility. It isn't easy to identify many characteristics of this particular varietal, due to the fact that it is highly versatile and shows significant differences in flavor and character depending on the terroir it is grown in, and the climatic conditions of the region. However, Syrah is most widely associated with full bodied, strong and loud red wines, packed full of fruity and spicy flavors, held in a beautifully deep red liquid.