Walking up the hill of Hermitage


A photographic journey to the top of the hill of Hermitage. 

While in France last month, taking part in the biennial Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône trade fair (reports and tasting notes to come), I undertook a classic pilgrimage by walking to the chapel atop Hermitage hill. I took photographs along the route to show some of the varying soil types and other features of the terroir. 

My route started on the Rue de l'Hermitage, as you can see on the map below, climbing nearly 150 metres over a distance of just under one kilometre. The photo icons tell you approximately where each picture was taken.

Photo one (below): Les Plantiers is the first lieu-dit you reach, and this vineyard's owner, Chapoutier, is the largest private landowner on Hermitage, with something like 25% of the appellation's vines on their books (although see this report on other holdings, including those of the Cave de Tain co-op).

Photo two: budburst was well underway in Les Plantiers on Tuesday 16 April 2019.

Photo three: looking up at the famous chapel, through the lieu-dit of l'Ermite, shows how steep some of the vineyards are.

Photo four: the stone path winds its way through Le Méal (my lead picture top right)...

Photo five: ... with up–down orientation on the east side of the path...

Photo six: ... and left–right orientation on the west side.

Photo seven: on flatter ground, the vines are trellised...

Photo eight: ... whereas individually staked vines are necessary on steeper plots. (See this very handy map of the different plots of Hermitage for the exact boundaries.)

Photo nine: looking south west, from top to bottom, are the lieux-dits of l'Ermite, Le Méal and Les Greffieux, with the Rhône river snaking away in the distance.

Photo ten: from close to the summit, the lieu-dit of Bessards runs all the way down to a white apartment block on the northern edge of the town of Tain l'Hermitage itself. Walking back down the loose gravel path on the left of the picture was perilous!

Photo 11: when you get to the chapel, it is slightly disappointing – if somewhat inevitable – to see that a mobile phone mast occupies the highest point of the hill. See our 2012 attempt to fight this unfortunate blight on a famous wine landscape. 

Photo 12: ... whereas in the chapel itself, St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers, stands watch.

Photo 13: close-up, there is more than a hint of the horror movie about these two.

Photo 14: but to finish on a lighter note, here is some other Hermitage wildlife – a male and female chaffinch flanking a poppy that is somehow forcing its way out of the pure granite bedrock that makes Hermitage so famous.