The Jermann Dream
Jul 18, 2019
In a society where many seek to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer trends, some stand out by turning away from transitory things in favor of embracing an original source of inspiration. This is one family’s story.
The First Heartbeat of Jermann Wine
It started over a hundred years ago when Anton Jermann, following his instincts, left his homeland in Burgenland, Austria. His heart led him first to Slovenia in search of vines, but eventually in 1881, across the Italian border to Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Here, not too far from his birthplace, was a land Anton felt he could call home, a place where he could peacefully tend grapes, build a winery and eventually craft a new life for his family.
In time Anton’s son, Angelo, who passed away recently at the age of 95, built on the foundation his father put in place. Over the course of a long career covering many harvests, Angelo Jermann became a seminal figure and is now recognized as one of Friuli winemaking’s founding fathers! Angelo’s son, Silvio Jermann, an even more influential figure, runs things today.
The northeast part of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, called Isonzo, sits squarely on the border between Slovenia and Austria. The entire region is picturesque with green, rolling hills overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It’s protectively surrounded by high mountains and enjoys an amiable climate year round. For wine production purposes, Friuli is divided into 10 DOC and 4 DOCG regions that cumulatively grow around thirty different wine varieties.
Silvio Jermann was one of the first Italian winemakers to receive actual University training in winemaking. Always one to go the extra mile, in Silvio’s case he graduated with twin degrees in enology from both of Italy’s two top wine schools: Conegliano and San Michele. In 1975, after putting those credentials to work, Silvio Jermann made history with the debut of Vintage Tunina, Italy’s first significant estate bottled white wine.
Tunina reset the stage for white wine in Italy and has consistently been recognized as one of the world’s top white wines. In 1998 Vintage Tunina was awarded the prestigious “Wine Oscar” from the influential Italian Sommelier Association, A.I.S. In both 1999 and 2016, respected Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso named Tunina “Best Wine of the Year” and in 2016 Gambero awarded Silvio Jermann the “world’s best Italian white wine maker.” Two years later in 2018, leading English wine journal Decanter wrote that Jermann Vintage Tunina is a “Wine Legend.” These and many other accolades continue to reinforce Jermann’s reputation for originality and excellence, but also the family’s tradition of wholeheartedly focusing on their heart’s passion.
Today, the Jermanns own 160 hectares of healthy vineyards in Isonzo, an alluvial part of Collio that spans the rock strewn border between Italy and Slovenia. For the last decade the family has operated two wineries to process their grapes, one for varietal wines like Pinot Grigio and the second, newer one for the estate’s stately cru wines including Tunina. The vineyard locations in the hill country above afford ideal climate conditions during the long but steady growing season. Isonzo’s temperatures are naturally thermoregulated by the Adriatic Sea and protected from harsh winds by sheltering mountains.
Silvio Jermann and family continue to let their hearts guide them with their land. This deep respect for nature and for future generations has led to an exciting new project called BJO (B = Bio, J = Jermann & O = Organic). Silvio’s BJO commitment mandates organic viticulture and eschews the use of any chemicals in recognition of the biodiverse nature of land and soil.
Jermann’s Future Generation Speaks Out
The next and future Jermann generation already is actively involved in the family’s wine business. Each of Silvio’s three children echoes the family’s unique history of pride and passion in pursuit of quality. This is an unbroken chain since Anton Jermann planted his first vines in 1881. Michele Jermann works in marketing and winery operations. His sister Sylvia, a winemaker, is a principal part of winemaking at Jermann. Brother Felix, fresh from four years of college in San Francisco, recently joined the winery to assist in sales and marketing. Not surprisingly, handsome Felix is emerging as Jermann’s 21st century face.
This past January, Forbes magazine featured an interview with twenty two year old Felix Jermann, who spoke clearly about how his family focuses on making wines from the heart. “We have a long history, six generations, and the mixture between technology and tradition. We follow moon cycles in the vineyards and in the winery for certain processes. And we only cultivate what actually fits, in the sense that we don’t just follow the trends of the market. We make wine because we believe in it. Because we like it. Because we love it.” – Felix Jermann
THE WINES of JERMANN
“With the first in vintage 1974, it is a tradition for Friuli to make Pinot Grigio. And we have a good mixture between river valley vineyards and the hillside. The river valley grapes add freshness, and are a little more thin on the palate, while seaside vineyards add more structure and complexity in the mouth. So we have a more complete Pinot Grigio. We do a slight skin contact maceration—two to three hours maximum—which gives that extra color, instead of just being pale white.” – Felix Jermann
With 90% Ribolla Gialla, 5% Riesling Renano, and 5% local grape, part of the wine ages in 750-litre Slovenian oak barrels for 6 months. “Riesling is not typical for the region, but typical for our family, as we came from a region known for Riesling, and because we’ve been cultivating it since the beginning.” – Felix Jermann
When young, the wine showed hints of bananas and ripe apples. Great with seafood and creamed vegetable soups.
100% Pinot Nero, this wine is matured 12 months in small barrels and tonneaux of French oak.
Intense and fruity with a pleasant hint of elderflower. Its taste is full and dry, elegant and balanced. To be paired with shellfish, seafood risotto. It is exceptionally good with lobster and crayfish.