When we speak, Felix Jermann has just returned to Italy following a whirlwind tour of the US to introduce Jermann’s latest Ramât Pinot Grigio to sommeliers, wine experts and industry press, and to clients old and new. This is a brand-new wine for the historical Friuli estate, and it represents a new chapter, connecting Jermann to its past, present and future. The overall response, he tells me with a beaming smile, has been fantastic: “I’m so happy to see that the wine is being well received. The response is very positive.”
The 2021 vintage Felix has been taking on the road is limited to just over 7,000 bottles. This first Ramât bottling is being marketed solely in Italy, the US and Canada.
The trip has been enlightening too. “This is not a straightforward wine,” says Felix candidly. Jermann’s loyal customers have appreciated this new take on Pinot Grigio, seeing Ramât as something exciting to be celebrated. “I feel with newer customers, we need to introduce them first to the classics from our portfolio; maybe with the full-of-character Pinot Grigio, or the flagship Dreams French oaked Chardonnay which speak more directly to the consumer. Then we can introduce them to Ramât.”
Felix was intrigued by the comparisons top sommeliers are making. “Some felt Ramât was similar to a Sancerre, and tasting them back-to-back, the 2021 vintage shares some of the aromatics and creaminess.” He doesn’t believe the 2022 Ramât will conjure a similar comparison since the different weather patterns have resulted in two vintages with very much their own unique characteristics.
“You know this is the right time for high-quality Pinot Grigio,” he says. “In my travels I sense more and more that customers want to taste the varietal aspect, they don’t want a sterile wine, but rather wine that is full of expression – that reminds them of a place.”
AN ODE TO NEW BEGINNINGS
Ramât is made with 100 percent Pinot Grigio grape, fruit that is selected from the winery’s finest and older vineyards in Collio Goriziano on the eastern hillsides of Friuli, and from the River Valley of Isonzo – although Felix is reluctant to share more on the locations. The fruit sees four hours of skin contact in the press, while, contrary to the classic Jermann Pinot Grigio which has a more traditional process of vinification, Ramât is aged on the lees in stainless steel vats for six months. This adds further to the wine’s complexity and richness.
Felix explains that the process may not appear to be a radical departure from Jermann’s usual production practices, but since Pinot Grigio is a delicate grape, even this slight skin contact is enough to impact subtly on the wine’s color and structure. “This is why the 2022 Ramât vintage – the result of a very hot summer – has extracted a little bit more color from the skin contact to have more intense aromas on the nose.”
Ramât Pinot Grigio continues the work initiated by Felix’s grandfather, Angelo Jermann, and later his father, Silvio Jermann. Reflecting on the beginning, he describes how, in the 1950s, his grandfather broke local tradition to become one of the first winemakers in the region to vinify and bottle Pinot Grigio in the standard wine bottle. Wine back then was consumed differently – it was generally not made for aging in this part of Italy since the devastation caused by the two World Wars had meant that little could be done in terms of investment in wineries.
The introduction of modern vinification processes, the press and the stainless-steel tank, allowed his son Silvio Jermann, who took over the winery in the 1970s, to advance the winery further. “My father used new ways of winemaking to create a very delicate and pristine expression of the Pinot Grigio that is age worthy,” he says. “This is what set Jermann apart from other winemakers here. And ours was the first Pinot Grigio from this region to have international recognition,” he says rather proudly. “These things come around in circles, so we decided to create a wine that reminds us of the style of my grandfather.”
There is also the passage of time. With Jermann’s older vineyards now aged between 20 to 25 years, the grapes are characterful and rich with flavor. “When tasting the grapes and seeing the quality, we knew this is the time to start working on something that goes above and beyond our classic Pinot Grigio,” says Felix.
Ultimately, Ramât’s intention is to be a wine that is fully expressive of the place. This means the purity of the fruit is central to its composition, and with the varietal aspect expressing this unique spot in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, tucked away on Italy’s far northeastern corner bordering Austria and Slovenia.