Wine cellar’s ID
The first record of any of the Armans in Istria goes back to 1850 and can be found in the marriage contract in which the underage Catarina Pastorcich was allow to contract a legal union with Giaccomo Ermann, one of the three Ermann brothers who, in search of work, had left their native South Tyrol and headed off to Gorica and Trieste and, after that, went down still further south to central Istria. Giaccomo Ermann thus arrived in the village of Pastori (shepherds), later to be renamed Pastorčići, and still later to receive its current name of Narduči. Similar changes went on with the surname Ermann, which, during the time of Italy, became Armani, and at the end finished up in the Slovene form of Arman. For this story of ours, what is important is that the first Arman, or Ermann, was into livestock, the second agriculture, with a serious vineyard planting began Franco’s grandfather Josip and father Edoardo Arman (born 1923). As a little boy, France Arman helped his dad with the vines and the grapes, and started to deal in wine more resolutely in the 1990s, when, because of the collapse of the old state, it became necessary to change the sales strategy. All the time until the 90s, the Armans had sold their wine in bulk to a tavern in Koper. Bottling started in 1996, after which came the first recognitions. Now new vineyards are being planted, the initial 4 hectares are being enlarged, and in 2002 Franc Arman left his employment and started to make winemaking his day job.
Vineyards and varieties
The Franc Arman OPG (an administrative classification meaning family owned farm business) today owns 13 hectares of land planted with grapevines. Half of these vines are Malvazia, the other half is dominated by Teran. After that come Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris and Muscat. All the vineyards, with their familiar local names Under the bank, Old wood, Meadow and the like, are sited on the soft slopes of the western Istrian vineyard area, over the valley of the Mirna, closed to the village of Narduči (by Vižinada), at a height of about 250 m, facing south west with a lot of sun and open, as Franc would put it, from Učka to the sea. The Armans pay a lot of attention to establishing new vineyards, when it’s crucial to put the most sensitive varieties such as Chardonnay high up out of the reach of the fogs and damp that well up out of the Mirna.
Cellar, technology, wines
The up-to-date and technologically well equipped Armani cellar six metres below ground at the very edge of the vineyard gives outstanding conditions for the natural process of wine making as well as for keeping and aging. Stainless steel barrels are for the making of young, fresh wines with a rich aroma, and the riper, more complex and stronger bodied vines are looked after in large wooden barrels of 2000 litres and barriques of 225 l. The assortment is easy to recognise: the fresh wines have a white label, the aged a black. Franc Arman took the 2004 vintage for the first series of Malvazia aged in the traditional method of fermentation for nine months in wood barrels on native yeast. The wine was released onto the market two years later. Today’s cellar capacity comes to 90,000 bottles, and there are nine different wines, five labels offering fresh new wines and four matured tipples.
After sister Ketlin had set off into the tourist industry, the family farm of the Armans in Narduci, a village with five households and 20 inhabitants, consisted of just mother Adriana, father France and son Oliver, who is just successfully completing a professional course in winemaking in the Poreč Institute for Agriculture and Tourism. Notwithstanding all their industriousness, expertise, tradition and experience, the Armans are fully aware that the three of them do not make up an ideal number capable of successfully and lastingly coping with the challenge of all phases of production, promotion, selling and – what is today most important – making sure they get paid. But – and all three of them leave the same impression – they are still more united and unanimous in their wishes and endeavours never to cross that significant line that dives family from industrial production, family from firm or simply, love from interest.
It’s practically incredible the way how behind the honest, rustic wines of the indigenous varieties of Istrian grape there are most of the time hardworking modest Istrian families that lovingly embody this wine. And of course, when, as the editor requires, you ask these industrious but not over loquacious people about their wine philosophy, they almost always look down; they take a sip of Malvazia or Teran; breathe deep, and then start their simple, quiet answers. To pick out a few phrases. We’d rather not praise our wine, we’d rather it praises us, says Franc sincerely. Son Oliver: We’d rather stay small quality producers than big mass producers. And at the end, the idea that both the Armans repeated several times, certainly their creed: We live well, we want for nothing, and people are satisfied with the wine.
When one talks about the future of their OPG with Franc and Oliver, father and son, then, in line with the family philosophy, there is never any mention of getting bigger, buying or leasing new vineyards. This quantity is enough; they are still mulling over making a new red blend, and will continue insisting on high quality work in vineyard and cellar for, good lord, and this is worth repeating a few more times: We live well, we want for nothing, and people are satisfied with the wine.