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Wine Legend: Jermann Vintage Tunina 1997

An 'outstanding wine'...

Wine Legend: Jermann Vintage Tunina 1997, Collio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

Bottles produced 50,000

Composition 25% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 22% Ribolla Gialla, 23% Malvasia, 5% Picolit Yield 30hl/ha

Alcohol 13%

Release price 27,800 lire

Price today £85.40

A legend because…

Silvio Jermann has always been inventive. Although he has produced varietal wines typical of the Collio region in Friuli, he created blends from the outset.

Easily the most famous of his wines is the blend Vintage Tunina, which was first made in 1975. All the varieties used for Tunina are picked together. Yields are kept well below the generous Friuli average, and grapes are picked about two weeks later than other white varieties, to give additional richness.

The wine takes its name from both a previous owner of the property called Antonia, known by the local diminutive Tunina, and a Venetian governess of the same name who was one of Casanova’s lovers.

Looking back

The property was founded in 1881, by Jermann’s ancestors from Austria and Slovenia. Jermann is always thought of as a trendy moderniser; after completing his studies in oenology, he took a job in Canada when his father opposed changes he proposed making at the winery. Tunina, however, is a reinterpretation of a traditional blend.

Austrian growers had long produced field blends, but they were often heavy and lacked freshness. Jermann’s challenge was to retain the richness and complexity without producing a wine that would turn flabby or be prone to oxidation. He was influenced by the celebrated Friuli winemaker, Mario Schiopetto, whose wines signalled a return to purer, cleaner styles of winemaking.

The vintage

This was an excellent vintage throughout Friuli. Frost in April reduced the crop, but the summer was very dry, leading to a late harvest of very healthy grapes.

The terroir

Vintage Tunina is produced from a field blend in a vineyard that occupies 16ha on Ronco del Fortino, planted on a soil that is mostly marl and sandstone. The density is high at between 6,000 and 7,000 vines per hectare.

The wine

Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are the major components, as well as varying doses of Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and Picolit. The grapes are all picked together, late in the season, pressed in whole clusters, and fermented together as an authentic field blend. Temperature control is aimed at prolonging the fermentation and extracting maximum flavour.

Although there has been some discreet oak-ageing in recent years, in the 1990s Vintage Tunina was unwooded; it received a longer than usual ageing on fine lees and was bottled without cold stabilisation some months after Jermann’s other whites.

The reaction

Tunina was acclaimed by Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso as the best wine of the year, which cemented Jermann’s reputation. The 1999 edition said: ‘The 1997 confirms the greatness of this outstanding wine: a splendid nose, complex with hints of tomato leaf and mixed fruits… A comparable palate and an inexhaustible symphony of fruit flavours on a plump but elegant textural base.’

In 1999 Wine Enthusiast commented: ‘Musky, melon-like nose. Full in the mouth, lightly spicy and long on the finish. Tight now, needs time to open up and reveal its charms.’

After a vertical tasting of 30 vintages of Tunina in 2017, Jermann noted during a YouTube interview that 1979 and 1997 had particularly impressed him. Richard Baudains, also present at the tasting, was enthusiastic: ‘Nose with acacia honey, touch of sultana, tropical fruit, pressed flowers, hint of Riesling-like petrol… Big impact on the palate, ripe fleshy fruit, great progression, long complex finish.’

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