When most wine enthusiasts think of Italy, they think of Tuscany. But there are so many other wine regions that produce interesting wines from grape varieties other than Tuscany’s ubiquitous sangiovese.
One of those regions is Fruili-Venezia-Giulia in the northeastern corner of Italy. We met up with Aloiz “Felix” Jermann who told us more about the area and his family’s wines.
The Jermann family winery is located in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, hard against the border with Austria to the north and Slovenia to the west. Languages in this area vary from the traditional native Italian to German and Slovenian. Before World War I this portion of Italy was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and dominated by German language and culture.
Felix is the 22-year-old son of Silvio Jermann, the first in the family to bottle their wines instead of selling them in bulk to a few local customers. He is the producer’s international communications manager and travels the world for the family winery. He speaks several languages fluently including nearly perfect English.
We were impressed with the quality of the Jermann Pinot Grigio Friuli 2017 ($24). A good bit of the pinot grigio that originates from the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy is pleasant but fairly undistinguished as it is meant to satisfy budget conscious wine drinkers at $10 a bottle. The Jermann wines are all estate produced including the pinot grigio, which offered a good bit of complexity and depth of flavor to justify the more robust pricing level.
Jermann said the wine is produced in all stainless steel and spends four months of lees contact to get deeper and richer flavors than most run-of the-mill equivalent pinot grigio. Jermann also said that they harvest some grapes early to “pick up acidity and develop the nose” of the wine.
We also experienced a unique Jermann Sauvignon Blanc Friuli IGT 2016 ($30). This is not your typical grapefruity, herbal and acidic sauvignon blanc that seems to be all the rage today. The Jermann version presents ripe pear and floral notes in a soft and easy to drink package, exhibiting an elegant creamy finish. No oak -- just extended lees contact.
The vast majority of wine produced in the world today is meant to be drunk upon release or over a couple of years at best. Some red wines will age and improve over time, however, only a rare few white wines will develop in a positive way. Surprisingly the signature wine for Jermann -- the Vintage Tunina -- is a white blend that, according to Jermann, can and should age for 10 years to achieve maximum enjoyment.
He offered us two examples of the Jermann Vintage Tunina vintages -- 2015 and 2012 -- just to prove the point. The 2015 Jermann Vintage Tunina Friuli-Venezia-Giulia IGT ($77) is the 40th vintage of this Italian white wine that has won numerous awards internationally. Crafted from a field blend of 50 percent sauvignon blanc and chardonnay and smaller percentages of ribolla gialla, malvasia, and a indigenous local varietal picolit, all harvested from a single vineyard on the same day. Some of this white wine is aged in Slovenian oak to round out the blend.
The 2015 Vintage Tunina is somewhat closed but shows hints of the underlying elegance and fruit in the blend. Jermann said that 2015 was a very good vintage which needs time.
The 2012 Jermann Vintage Tunina Friuli-Venezia-Giulia IGT, on the other hand, is currently unavailable but illustrates the aging potential of Vintage Tunina for the patient consumer. This seven-year-old wine has developed a very rich mouth filling elegant experience with pear and some orange notes. This is an amazing wine that illustrates and justifies the international reputation of Jermann’s Vintage Tunina.
Chalone Vineyards Estate Chenin Blanc 2017 ($31). From a vineyard originally planted in 1919, this amazing chenin blanc is the best we have ever tasted. This is a full, rich and ripe drinking experience with ripe peach and pear elements as well as a bare hint of mocha of all things. Unfortunately, only 200 cases were made so be patient sourcing this amazing find.
Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2014 ($52). The Gran Selezione is only produced in the best of years from selected hand harvested parcels. This is a very good example of the best Chianti Classico from Tuscany. Dried cherries and plum notes are expressed in the mouth with a hint of mature oak. Very smooth and easy to drink now but has the potential for some aging.
Murphy-Goode Red Wine California 2015 ($14). This is a real user-friendly red wine. Made up of 50 percent zinfandel and 36 percent syrah along with a smattering of six other red grapes, this wine delivers a bold, mouth-filling experience that over delivers for the price with luscious cherry, raspberry, and blueberry flavors.
Zonin Prosecco DOC Cuvee 1821 Brut N/V ($14). In the ocean of inexpensive proseccos, this good value from Zonin stands out with a bright fruity style, ample froth, and an easy to drink style.
Villa San-Juliette Chorum VSJ Red Wine Paso Robles 2016 ($30). This might be a bit difficult to find due to small production, but it will be worth the effort. A perfect bold styled red wine crafted from a mix of Rhone and Bordeaux red varietals. Bold fruit flavors of blackberry and black raspberry come to mind when tasting this barbecue friendly wine.
Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Central Coast 2017 ($18). A great value-oriented pinot noir that actually tastes like pinot noir and not generic red wine. Cherries, plums and mocha notes dominate this medium bodied fruit forward quaffable pinot noir.