Hermitage by Domaine Bernard Faurie

Hermitage, also known as the wine from 'The Hill'

The Hermitage is an area that spans a hill in the Rhône and has had its own appellation for both red and white wine since 1937. While wine has been produced here since Roman times, the name 'hermitage' is said to originate from the time of Knight Henri Gaspard de Stérimberg. In 1224, he and a group of kindred spirits withdrew to the granite hill as hermits, following the Albigensian crusade in Southern France. Legend has it that these hermits replanted the vineyards with great success.

Domaine Bernard Faurie owns a vineyard on that hill, comprising 1.7 hectares of the approximately 136 hectares that make up the entire AOC Hermitage. This is indeed a very modest production. It's a marvel and an achievement that the wines from this domain have gained such recognition.

Many of Bernard's wines have received excellent reviews. Choosing among them would be a challenge. Josh Raynolds describes the 2018 Hermitage, a blend of Greffieux and Bessards, as follows:

"Opaque ruby. A complex, highly perfumed bouquet evokes ripe red and black fruits, exotic spices and candied flowers, and smokey mineral and succulent herb tones build steadily with air.
Stains the palate with intense black raspberry, cherry preserve, licorice and violet pastille flavors that exhibit a compelling blend of depth and litheness.
Steadily building tannins frame a strikingly long, finely detailed finish featuring star anise, floral and dark berry notes. White capsule." (96/100, Josh Reynolds in Vinous)

Domaine Bernard Faurie

The estate produces several red wines and one white wine. The vineyards are spread across three lieu-dits: Le Méal (limestone and pebbles), Les Greffieux (clay), and Les Bessards (rich in granite). Bessards and Méal are among the most legendary vineyards of Hermitage, producing wines with a great aging potential. The oldest vines are on Greffieux, over 100 years old, planted by Faurie's ancestors (Faurie himself is the 5th generation). On Le Méal, the vines are almost 60 years old.

According to Bernard, a Hermitage is not truly a Hermitage unless it contains fruit from Bessards. His two main cuvées are red Hermitages in two different blends: Gréffieux/Bessards (white capsule) and Bessards/Méal (gold capsule). You'll need to recognize the vineyards by the color of the capsules because the names of the vineyards are not on the label. Wine exclusively from Les Bessards has a red capsule.

Occasionally, Bernard bottles a barrel of pure Méal. All Méal bottles have a gold capsule with the letter M. He also produces a minuscule amount of Hermitage Blanc. Minuscule means about 800 bottles a year or less, from vines dating from 1920 - 1960. And there is also a small production of an Hermitage red with a blend of both Bessards, Greffieux and Méal. These bottles have a gold capsule bearing a unique number.

Winemaking Process

Bernard Faurie learned winemaking from his father. What happens more frequently today to optimize wine quality has been a practice at the estate for a long time: manual harvesting, rigorous selection, and abstaining from new wood. Since the planting of the vines, the soil has been worked according to principles we now call biodynamic. Everything is done manually, a horse plows the earth, fermentation is natural, and the wine cellar looks like one from many decades ago.

To make the red Hermitage wines, the grapes are not destemmed and whole clusters undergo a process of crushing followed by a natural fermentation in large, old oak barrels. The wines age for 18 to 24 months before bottling. The aging period is determined by the character and quality of the vintage.  

The Future with Emmanuel Darnaud

Talking about Bernard Faurie also means mentioning son-in-law Emmanuel Darnaud, originally a fruit grower and a self-taught winemaker. Darnaud successfully manages his own estate in Saint-Joseph, with a production of 80,000 bottles per year and has been certified organic since 2020.

Since 2013, Emmanuel has been in charge of Les Greffieux. Bessards had its first harvest year under Emmanuel in 2021. However, Le Méal is still (as of February 2024) managed by the ever healthy Bernard, who has long surpassed retirement age.

The wines need time, and in good years, they can be aged for around forty years.

At the Auction

At the auction, we have:
  • Lot 3991: 2014 Hermitage white
  • Lot 3992: 2018 Hermitage red, Les Bessards, red capsule
  • Lot 3993: 2018 Hermitage red, Bessards/Méal, gold capsule
  • Lot 3994: 2013 Hermitage red, Greffieux/Bessards, white capsule
  • Lot 3995: 2018 Hermitage red, Greffieux/Bessards, white capsule
It's like we wrote before: it will be hard to choose !

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