In many ways, choosing a wine to bring to a dinner party has a lot of parallels with picking out an outfit to wear. When you get dressed to go to an event, you’ll want to make sure that your ensemble suits the occasion — and coordinates with your shoes.
Similarly, when picking out a wine to present to a host, it’s important to find something that pairs well with what is being served and suits the individual tastes of those who will be drinking it. But what about those times when you aren’t sure what your hosts like, or what they plan to serve?
Enter Jùsto, the little black dress of wines. This well-rounded crowd-pleaser is all about balance, with a medium body and smooth finish that makes it a great option for wine drinkers of all stripes. Of course, Jùsto is not just for dinner parties, and you’ll probably want to pick up a few bottles so that you have it on hand whenever you’re in the mood for a smooth, balanced red that goes with pretty much everything. Jùsto’s versatility is all thanks to the efforts of the Italian winemakers at Cesari and their quest to create a wine that is just right.
The Cesari Story
Cesari, the Veronese estate behind Jùsto, traces its origins to 1936 when founder Gerardo Cesari made it his mission to produce an Amarone della Valpolicella — a red blend produced primarily with partially dried Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes — that would be worthy of global acclaim. His vision became a reality, and by the early 1960s, with a little help from his son Franco, Cesari became one of the first Italian wine producers to export its products across the globe, elevating Amarone to worldwide esteem in the process.
Although Cesari now counts Turbiana, Cab-Merlot, and Pinot Grigio among its offerings, Amarone continues to dominate its portfolio to this day, with Corvina — the Veneto region’s signature varietal — taking center stage. True to Cesari’s roots, the dominant grape in Jùsto is Corvina, comprising 60 percent of the blend. It’s balanced out with Verona-grown Merlot, which accounts for the remaining 40 percent.
What’s That About Corvina?
Originating in the Veneto region, Corvina is primarily used not only in Amarone but also in other blended wines such as Valpolicella and Recioto — Cesari also has a pure Corvina, sold as Jèma. The variety, characterized by its small, purple berries, ripens later than average. It’s notable for its high acidity and thicker skin, which makes it a good candidate for light drying, a process known as appassimento.
What’s in a Name?
The word “Jùsto” is neither a new type of varietal nor the name of a tiny village in Italy. Rather, it’s a portmanteau of the word English “just” and giusto, Italian for “right,” combining sentiments in two languages to come up with a word that captures the essence of something that is, well, just right. And this balanced wine certainly lives up to its name.
From Harvest to Bottle
The vintners behind Jùsto take great care in achieving this balance by timing each step of the winemaking process. The grapes that go into making this wine are harvested in late September and then left to dry in cases for roughly 20 days, in the true Amarone style. The next 15 days are devoted to skin-on fermentation before the grapes are transferred into stainless steel tanks for malolactic fermentation, which lasts around 18 months. The Jùsto is then bottled and readied for release, but not before being affixed with a label that provides a few clues about what to expect inside.
The Art of Presentation
Like many esteemed wine producers, Cesari has traditionally favored an elegant look when presenting its wines to the public, relying on classic hues and fonts that are evocative of the Veneto Region from which they originate. With Jùsto, Cesari has taken an alternative approach, eschewing traditional themes in favor of something just a little different. The Justo label features offset typewriter font, with a breakdown of the “just + giùsto” marriage. Below is a small illustration of grapes evolving from their plump, ripe-from-the-vine state to their final lightly dried form that happens 20 days into the winemaking process.
Taste the Balance
Pop the cork on a bottle of Justo to reveal a bright, ruby-hued wine that evokes the freshness of springtime. This balanced, medium-bodied wine is fruity but dry, with notes of freshly picked tart cherries and strawberries infused with vanilla, followed by subtle hints of almond and petrichor. Justo’s tannins are subtle, resulting in a mouthfeel that is smooth and velvety and transitions into a gentle finish.
Jùsto’s subtlety and balance make it a great wine to drink on its own, but if you want to pair it, you’ll have plenty to work with. This versatile wine’s balanced nature means that it pairs equally fantastically with grilled meats and tangy mature cheeses, while its brightness shines when paired with pesto-based pasta or any dish with a particularly earthy quality. Jùsto is vegan-friendly, too, and makes a fine accompaniment to skewers of grilled garden nightshades — think eggplant and zucchini — along with fragrant couscous or Mediterranean mezze platters.
Given Jùsto’s versatility, it’s definitely a wine that you’ll want to keep handy. While you’ll probably be tempted to show it off to all of your friends, make sure to stock up on a few bottles for yourself, too, for whenever you need a solid, balanced wine that goes with just about anything.
This article is sponsored by Cesari.