Hermitage, Blanc, Les Rocoules, 2011

  Marc Sorrel

Wonderfully ripe aromas, richer and more complex than the regular Hermitage; a significant step up. Flowery, herb-infused and spicy with exotic ripe peach fruit, this is rich but not too heavy thanks to a very clear, balancing freshness. A blend of 90% Marsanne and 10% Roussanne from 60-year-old vines planted due south-facing on limestone soils.

Contains Sulphites.

About Marc Sorrel

A domaine that has been established for over a century, Sorrel started its current incarnation when Henri Sorrel decided to stop selling off the production to make their first estate-bottled vintage in 1979. Marc, Henri's son, started to learn winemaking from his father in 1982 and, with the death of Henri two years later, found himself thrust alone into the world of wine-growing. Marc inherited 2ha from his father and managed to acquire a further 2ha of various parcels in Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage. Today Marc is one of the small band of individual growers making outstanding wine from the illustrious hill of Hermitage. The style is pure, refined and intense, the emphasis is on vineyard work and good quality fruit without too much interference in the winery. The grapes are de-stalked and fermented in tank for the reds and barrel for the whites, the wines are then matured in small oak casks, a mixtured of new and used varying degrees of new wood. Marc's great, and fully justified, reputation today is based on the outstanding quality of his Hermitages. His flagship wines are Hermitage Les Rocoules, a single vineyard white from vines older than 50 years, and the Hermitage Greal, a blend of old vines that come, predominantly, from the Meal vineyard with up to 10% of the blend including fruit from Greffieux.

Appellation: Hermitage

Famous hill and appellation in the Northern Rhône, Hermitage is limited to 132ha (about the size of one large Bordeaux property) making long-lived red and white wine, roughly two thirds the former and one third the latter. It was one of the most expensive wines in France during the 18th and 19th Centuries excepting, perhaps, Bordeaux's First Growths, and its wines were often used by Bordeaux and Burgundy producers to strengthen their wines. Hermitage was known to England as far back as the 17th Century when it was quoted in a Thomas Shadwell play. It is a steep south-facing hill that contains a marble of clay and limestone top soils based on granite rock. The hill is split into various vineyards with their own individual terroirs or "climats." These range from the sandy gravel over granite soils of Les Bessards, where some of the hills most muscular wines are made; Le Méal with its high limestone content that produces finer more floral wines, to l'Hermite at the top of the hill with its poor sandy soils with large stones on the surface. Clay dominates the lower-lying vineyards. Other famous sites include Maison Blanche, Péléat, Les Murets, Rocoule, La Croix, and Les Signeaux. White grapes are best suited to the limestone-dominated sites.

The red wines are almost always Syrah even if in theory 15% white grapes can be added, whilst the white wines are made from Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. The reds are the main event here, typically they should be deeply coloured, violet-scented, rich, spicy and long-lived. The best can age over 20-30 years. White wines vary more in style and quality depending where on the hill the grapes are grown, the ageing and the percentage of oak used if at all, the grape blend and how much of the malolactic fermentation is allowed to take place, however they should always be full-bodied and complex. They are famous for going into a bit of a trough at about 4-5 years of bottle age however they do emerge, the finest examples are up their with some of the best, most long-lived whites of France. Chave is particularly renowned for producing whites that are every bit as good as his reds. The hill is dominated by the big houses such as Guigal, Jaboulet and Chapoutier, so there is only ever a finite amount of high quality artisan grower-winemakers. Most people's pick of the bunch is Chave, whose wines are outstanding, however there are some excellent examples also made by Marc Sorrel, Domaine du Colombier, Bernard Faurie and Chapoutier.