JERMANN PINOT GRIGIO
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” …. William A. Foster
Soft, watery, flat, without character, thin.
Zingy, zippy, mouthwatering, with typicity.
That is the obverse and the reverse of the wine coin. Winemakers, we know, make wine. And like coins, countless denominations are made across the globe. But whereas governments can just continue minting non-precious metal coins (what choice do you have?), wineries are often pressured into responding to demands. Varietals that have captivated the palate of the international marketplace are nudged into quenching the world’s thirst. But varietals are precious. There are no shortcuts to climate, soil composition, yields per acre/hectare. Wineries not profitable in such a competitive marketplace don’t long remain in business. And the lure of profit is strong. Sometimes, compromises in quality get made. And winemakers are given suggestions regarding the “facts of life.” And those “facts” sometimes translate into overproduction.
If you’re of the age to remember the Merlot of California in the 80s and 90’s you’re of age also to remember Sideways (the movie released in October 2004) and what happened to the sale of Merlot afterwards. It hasn’t happened yet with Pinot Grigio, but it looks to be in the beginning stage. Too much Pinot Grigio I’ve tasted recently has been of the first type: soft, watery, flat, without character, thin.
I first wrote about Jermann (on my Facebook page) in July of 2018 when I paired it with a luncheon menu of Haddock steaks prepared with a lemon-caper sauce. Tasting it again a month later, I was still impressed. Hired to pour this (and other wines) at an event last week, I tasted it again. Three times at bat. Three home runs. And my opinion was not unshared. The retailer’s stock of this wine was sold out an hour before the 4-hour event ended. That’s a considerable endorsement given the wine’s ARP of $23, higher than most PGs, but also an endorsement of the American consumer’s palate when many PGs are available and priced at under $15. Let’s consider why that may be:
The winery’s estate vineyards are in Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy’s north-easternmost region. This is the fifth smallest region in Italy, but despite its size, the region spans a wide variety of climates and landscapes. From the mild-oceanic in the south to the Alpine-continental in the north. The hilly area, just south of the mountains and along the central section enjoys a more temperate climate. However, even within this smaller area, there is considerable diversity of terrain. Walled by the Alps on the north, the region is exposed to air masses from the east and west and from the southerly “Sirocco” blowing in from the Adriatic Sea and capable of bringing heavy rains. The Jermann winery is tucked into the hills of Friuli Venezia Giulia below the Dolomites with two vineyards: (1) The Rutters Estate in the hilly Collio sub-region where vines are cooled by the Bora wind off the Adriatic Sea promoting grapes with perfume and zesty acidity due to diurnal temperature drops. Soil here is predominantly marlstone and sandstone belonging to the Flysch formation from the Eocene era that gave rise to a rocky substrate and later formed the characteristic “ponca” (marine fossils from the sea bottom brought to the surface by the same tectonic movement that created the Alps). It is chalky and mineral rich. (2) the Villanova Estate in the Isonzo sub-region where vines are grown in a permeable gravel, clay and sand soil and where the temperature is moderated by proximity to the sea and the lower Alps. Clay in the soil here promotes body.
Too much body and the wine becomes too fleshy and flat – no zest! Not enough body and the wine cracks from its own astringency; is thin and bony.
Grapes are picked at dawn to preserve freshness and are partially vinified on the skins, then aged in stainless to maintain freshness and aromatics. In the glass, it shows deep lemon-green. Most people enjoy aromas of white peach, but (for me) it was lemon first, then fresh cut apple before the peach. All of this carried onto the palate. As the wine is allowed to warm, you’ll enjoy a faint suggestion of pineapple. A curious vegetative note announces too, which I likened to lemongrass and enjoyed.
Of course, all impressions are personal and correct for those experiencing them. I have to mention, a common one is pear. Others get green apple and a note of tangerine. One mentioned hazelnut; another banana. But the most common is pear. Any impression is valid for the person experiencing it and if enough people experience the same impression, it’s sufficiently valid for me to mention it too. But, personally, it’s the finish of this wine that is the “closer”. Whatever impressions you’ll experience, this wine has concentration and a depth of flavor that is missing in many of the varietal’s companions today. It offers a racy acidity balanced by fruit that carries throughout the tasting and into a finish I think long for a white wine.
I wrote previously about another Pinot Grigio that I found to offer excellent value in comparison to others within its price category and being priced lower than Jermann. But if you’re willing to step up some in complexity, I think you’ll find the step up in price worth it. Sometimes you get even more that what you pay for.
Maybe it’s because this area in Italy (like Alsace in France and other areas worldwide) is multi-cultural; the Friuli Venezia Giulia region being influenced by its history of Austrian, German and Slovenian winemakers. How people impact the vines (tending & managing) is part of terroir also, as much as where the vines are grown (that part of terroir most people have come to accept). In a pour into your glass of Jermann’s Pinot Grigio what you will recognize is its uniqueness – a character harder to describe than to appreciate. One sip and you’ll recognize quality.
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TECH SPECS & ETC.
Distributed by: Lux
Varietal: Pinot Grigio, 100%
TA: 5.6 g/L
James Suckling: 91
Robert Parker’s W.A. 90
Wine Spectator: 90