Hermitaged wine - a limited historical release

'Hermitage' refers to one of a few types of wine grape. In parts of Europe in the name meant Syrah, and that grape had an important role in wine sales for several decades.

For decades on either side of 1800, the greatest wines of Bordeaux often had a little Hermitage added to them. This deepened the colour and fleshed out the wine - some considered it more prestigious if your Château Lafite or Latour had this added.

The practice was driven by British taste. In the late 1700s the Bordeaux market was dominated by rich Englishmen, and Bordeaux wines were commonly beefed up with another wine. Some were laced with Spanish Benicarlo, but the more expensive Hermitage was saved for the best.

The practice continued at least until the 1860s for wines destined for the British market. In 1826, in his Manuel du Sommelier,Jullien wrote: "The wines of the First Growths of Bordeaux as drunk in France do not resemble those sent to London."

Hermitaged Bordeaux

Several years ago, the proprietors of Ch. Palmer tasted an 1869 Lafite Hermitagé. Impressed with its vigor, they decided to restore the practice on a small scale by producing four barrels of Palmer's 2004 vintage, adding a small amount of Northern Rhône Syrah.

This was so successful that they repeated the experiment in 2006 and 2007, though just making a 100 cases or so each time. Most of these have immediately been snapped up by collectors, though a few bottles are available from sources such as the Rare Wine Company.

Investors might consider putting aside a bottle or two of the 'Historical XIXth Century Wine' as an experiment.


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