Hermitage is one of the Rhône’s most long-lived wines – even the whites can age successfully for decades. See Matt Walls’ vintage guide back to 1998 below, and scroll to the bottom for our experts’ top-rated Hermitage wines from the past 20 years.
Hermitage vintage guide:
Red: Powerful, ripe – sometimes too ripe – and very tannic wines are the result of a hot, exceedingly dry summer. Some can be uncomfortably extracted and drying, but those producers who managed to retain a sense of freshness have made very long-lived wines.
White: Powerfully concentrated white wines, but ones that can sometimes lack elegance and freshness. This effect can be compounded by those who opted for liberal use of small new oak barrels. The best, however, will be very long-lived.
Red: Reduced yields due to a very rare hail shower on the Hill. A shame, as 2016 is a wonderful year in Hermitage, producing muscular wines but with real dynamism, freshness and balance. Not hugely powerful, but have real Hermitage terroir expression.
White: A good vintage for white Hermitage – certainly better than the two vintages either side. They can be a little low in acidity but broadly have a good sense of freshness and balance. Yields were hit hard, however.
Red: ‘It’s a great vintage,’ said Jean-Louis Chave when I tasted with him from barrel, comparing it to the 1990 – another vintage that was generous in quality and of extremely high quality. Concentrated wines but with freshness that will help them age for decades.
White: A hot vintage that was fantastic for red Hermitage but a little less benevolent for the whites. Though generally the quality is good, some whites can be a little overly opulent and lack freshness, but the best are impressive and concentrated.
Red: A wet, cool summer produced a relatively lean style but generally speaking, Hermitage performed better than most Rhône appellations in this tricky 2014 vintage. It’s not a vintage for long-term ageing, but the very best wines might surprise thanks to their acidity and freshness.
White: A difficult vintage in the Northern Rhône in general, due to the cool, wet summer, but it’s a great vintage for whites. In Hermitage, the higher lieux-dits tended to outperform those near the bottom, and the best have a real vibrancy, energy, cut and freshness that will propel these wines far into the future.
Red: Fairly structured wines without great generosity of fruit, but nonetheless solid. These wines should give pleasure into the medium term, but aren’t for long term ageing. Likely to be a little stolid in youth.
White: Cold weather at flowering reduced yields, affecting the whites more than the reds. Quality however is largely good for white Hermitage, producing balanced wines with good concentration and a strong stamp of terroir.
Red: An easy vintage to love, marked by concentration, vibrancy and a juicy drinkability, and not a vintage particularly prone to closing down in youth. Reds should age well into the medium term on their freshness and natural balance.
White: An equally lovely vintage for both red and white Hermitage, both benefitting from the natural freshness of the vintage.
Red: A hot spring and cool summer were followed by a hot autumn: a strangely inverted year, leading to decent crop of red Hermitage wines, but they can feel a little stodgy and lacking in definition. Choose wines from higher lieux-dits if possible.
White: Marginally better for whites than reds thanks to some cooler, fresher weather in the summer, but this year lacks the concentration of 2010 and the freshness of 2012.
Red: A low yielding year but a truly great vintage that – when it eventually comes round – will provide a crop of incredible wines. Monolithic in fruit and tannin, these need to be kept for at least 15 years before opening, as many have fallen into a deep sleep. Don’t be tempted to open them too early!
White: An epic vintage in the Rhône, which tended to favour red wines over whites, but 2010 Hermitage excelled in both colours. The whites are concentrated, structured and statuesque. Generally speaking, the wines can be opened now, but the best will continue to gain in complexity and interest for another decade before showing their best.
Red: A beautifully ample and rich vintage that can be described as solaire, or ‘full of sun’, thanks to the hot, dry summer. The 2009 wines tend to show their vintage fairly strongly, but have good fruit reserves that will fuel them long into the future. Some alcohol levels however are a little unbalanced.
White: A particularly fruity and generous style of white Hermitage, exceptional and long lasting from the very best sites and growers, but some wines can suffer from a lack freshness due to the hot, dry conditions.
Red: 2008 is a vintage that doesn’t deserve to be vilified to quite the extent it has been, but nonetheless the wines do often tend towards a fairly skinny profile due to the disappointing growing conditions. Some of the more straightforward wines are dilute and green, but the best have a freshness and drinkability.
White: While the reds struggled for ripeness in 2008, this wasn’t such a problem for the whites. Though they can lack the regal opulence and concentration that Hermitage addicts crave, there are some very good whites, albeit in a slimmer style.
Red: An uneven growing season, producing reds that are a little lighter in style and lack the depth and profundity of a great vintage. But the best have good definition and a spring in their step.
White: A mixed vintage saved by a warm September, resulting in a decent crop of classically-styled white Hermitage.
Red: A vintage that was somewhat overlooked after the rapturously received 2005. The wines aren’t as concentrated or structured, but the 2006s have a lovely softness of tannin, beautiful balance and sense of approachability – though are far from simple wines. They are largely drinking well now.
White: A lovely fresh, balanced vintage. The whites have great verve and freshness. No need to keep the more straightforward wines, but the best will age wonderfully.
Red: A hot, very dry season that led to intensely concentrated wines for long-term ageing. Although most can be broached now, it’s advisable to wait until 2025 for the top wines to really hit their stride. Almost on a par with 2010 and 2015.
White: A better vintage for reds, but also very good for whites, producing powerful, structured wines with plenty of body. Will age well on their intensity and extract despite some lacking a little freshness and acidity.
Red: Fresh, crisp and crunchy wines with good terroir expression, if sometimes lacking depth.
White: An excellent vintage for whites. The wines have real verve and energy and great terroir expression. They are drinking well now, and the best will continue to develop with interest for many years to come.
Red: The heatwave vintage, with many red Hermitage wines being picked in August. The very ripe, very dense red wines are very mixed in quality: some lack acidity and definition, displaying unbalanced alcohol; others have retained a sense of freshness. A vintage to buy with care, but there are, perhaps unexpectedly, some outstandingly good wines.
White: An uncomfortably hot vintage. Although some whites have impressive concentration and impact, generally speaking they are bulky and corpulent.
Red: The only bad vintage in the Rhône in the past 20 years, owing to a miserable summer followed by torrential rains during harvest that caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure, let alone vineyards and the resulting wines. A vintage to avoid. If you have any, consider drinking them soon.
White: The whites fared better than the reds when picked before the worst of the rains. Some weren’t bad, but others are already past their best.
Red: A lovely vintage in the Northern Rhône, arguably better in Côte-Rôtie but excellent in Hermitage too, with the wines now mature and ready to open. Ripe wines with bite and definition.
White: The whites have lovely vibrancy, balance and an easy-going nature, with fairly homogenous quality across the board. A good balance between ripeness and zest.
Red: The 2000 vintage has something of a halo around it, largely due to Bordeaux, but it wasn’t as exceptional in the Northern Rhône. Nonetheless, it was a decent vintage for Hermitage, albeit towards the lighter end of the scale.
White: A slightly lighter vintage for white Hermitage too, the result of stuttering summer weather.
Red: Better in Côte-Rôtie, but still excellent and also higher yielding in Hermitage. A healthy, ripe and plentiful harvest giving rise to long-lived, silky, generous wines.
White: Overshadowed by the quality of the Northern Rhône reds this year (especially Côte-Rôtie), 1999 was a very good vintage for white Hermitage: voluptuous and long-lived.
Red: The best vintage since 1990. A concentrated and tannic crop due to a very hot, dry summer. The wines are built for the long term and are now rewarding those who demonstrated patience.
White: Concentrated, structured whites, some of which have aged brilliantly.
Written by Matt Walls for Decanter, 2019
Top Hermitage wines from the past 20 vintages: