Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Are Ermitage and Hermitage the same thing? Why does Chapoutier call it Ermitage if the appellation is called Hermitage?
—Rob, New York
Hermitage is an appellation in France's Northern Rhône Valley. Most of the wine from Hermitage is red, made from the Syrah grape, but there are also some whites, made from the Marsanne and Roussanne grapes. It’s a small region, with only about 300 acres of vineyards.
The region takes its name from the legend of a 13th century knight who returned home wounded from the Crusades and became the “ermite,” or hermit, of Hermitage.
Wines from the region have been prized for centuries, and the Hill of Hermitage is also famous for the small chapel that tops it. The Hermitage AOC was officially recognized in 1937.
The original name for the tiny region (and the wines from it) was "Ermitage," but words evolve, and it is now spelled with an "H" at the beginning: Hermitage. According to one of the region's top producers, M. Chapoutier, the "H" was added to help English wine buyers more easily pronounce it.
And Chapoutier uses both spellings: "Hermitage" is featured on Chapoutier bottles made by blending several parcels together, while "Ermitage” is reserved for Chapoutier's plot-designated wines. (The Ermitage-labeled wines still qualify as Hermitage AOC wines.)