Winery Profile: Giusti Wine

A Player of Significance
by Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Joe Giusti may just be the fastest rising mogul in the empire of wine. With one foot in Canada and his soul in Veneto, Giusti is now the single largest private vineyard landowner in the region of Prosecco and it all began only 15 years ago when he bought his first two hectares of vines in 2002. Since then, Guisti has expanded his horizons producing Amarone and Ripasso along with iconic Super-Venetian style blends.

A truly self-made man, Joe Giusti arrived in Canada from Italy when he was 18, looking for a new life, seeking independence and filled with curiosity. This new adventure couldn’t be further from life in his family’s farmhouse in Veneto. He spoke no English when he arrived but had an enterprising spirit. His ambition, entrepreneurship and a desire to be his own boss led him to start a humble construction business with the tools he had in his possession. Over the next 40 years, his success in the construction business snowballed into what is now private ownership of a group of construction companies in western Canada employing over 800 people.

He grew up amidst the vines and although very satisfied and successful in Canada, Giusti longed to regain a part of his heritage. Nobility of Conegliano, Giusti’s ancestors were of considerable importance in the 17th century in what is now Prosecco’s most important village. In 2002, Giusti Wine purchased 2 hectares of 1945 plantings in the Dal Col vineyard of Treviso, owned by his wife’s family. The small estate had a solid reputation as a high quality growing site and was planted with a mix of glera and other indigenous red and white varieties.

The company’s Italian base of operations is located in Treviso’s Nervesa della Battaglia, Joe’s hometown, and is housed in an old WWII military base. Casa Rolando has been restored with careful attention to the building’s historical importance, preserving a well previously used to hide machine-guns by the partisans. Treviso’s landscape, like much of northeastern Italy, is still marked by military incidents of the first half of the 20th century. Mines are still found buried in renewed vineyard sites in the region and evidence of bombed ruins dot the landscape. Despite the hardships of the past, this is a magical place for wine growing, offering a wealth of soil types, slopes, vistas and a great cultural heritage. While doing their best to preserve and commemorate the past, Giusti has made newly acquired estates welcoming and alluring for visitors and oenophiles. Guest housing has been created at both the Casa Rolando site and the Abbazia (Abbey) property for those coming from afar.

This feature was commissioned by Vintage Trade.

Ruins dotting the landscape

Giusti now owns close to 14% of Prosecco’s vineyard land making him a player of significance. The parcels of land that Joe continues to purchase in the DOC and DOCG regions of Prosecco come from a mix of small growers who are ready for retirement and from large producers selling their land interest like Bisol (DOC Prosecco sites) and Ruggeri (Asolo DOCG sites). Giusti’s business is now as much vineyard management and grape selling as it is production. This is a strong position to find oneself amidst economic ups and downs. Joe’s team is now having a marked impact on how land is farmed in the region. Their vineyard caretaking practices focus on sustainable methods of viticulture and reducing yields. Giusti’s focus on quality control practices in the vineyard will surely have a significant impact on the future of wine in the region – an impressive accomplishment considering newness of the company’s establishment.

Joe Giusti is nothing if not ambitious and continues to work towards a better future for the region and the image of Prosecco which has seen its fair share of problems over the past decade. Counterfeit Prosecco has been difficult to control and has been the cause of a damning image of the region’s wine. In 2013, the situation in Italy became so dire that the agricultural ministry called for an investigation into retailers, bars and restaurants that were selling non-regulated bubbly as Prosecco DOC. Bisol’s export manager, Roberto Cremonese, reported to Decanter Magazine in July of 2013 that an estimated 30% of DOC Prosecco sales were imitations. These “illegal wines” were often sourced from grapes outside the delimited region, routinely injected with CO2 in a non-Charmat fashion on licensee premises. Quality Prosecco producers, largely in the premium DOCG region have been increasingly worried about the image that fake, poor quality DOC Prosecco have had on their wines. A recent trip sponsored by the Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG took me to visit producers who shared their concerns about this hit to their consumer perceived reputation. Although the government has tried to control the problem by certain initiatives such as the abolition of the IGT Prosecco classification, forcing producers to reduce their yields to be part of the higher DOC tier, most quality-minded growers would agree that more enforcement of regulation is key.

Joe Giusti

Whether he meant to or not, Joe Giusti has become an important voice in the fight for Prosecco. Earlier this month I interviewed David Walker, Giusti Wines Technical Director, who related that Joe feels strongly about DOC enforcement and has been vocal about his refusal to take funding from the government as a result of the unfortunate, challenging and low-yielding 2014 vintage. He believes that the funding should go to small as opposed to large producers who may be more politically powerful but who can recover better. Despite the swelling size of Giusti, he firmly believes that small, artisanal producers are consequential to the reboot of Prosecco’s reputation and that investment in their efforts is key.

Giusti Wines continues to amass vineyard land, buying parcels at fair market prices from families whose progeny is no longer interested in farming. Walker reports that locals have developed both a kinship and solid respect for his interest in preserving land and the region’s reputation. A donation of 1.4 million dollars by Giusti was recently offered to restore an abbey on the Abbazia vineyards that lay in ruins after a bombing in WWI. It would appear that Joe has made more friends than enemies through his concerted efforts.

Giusti owns a network of properties with impressive estates but surprisingly does not yet have a winery of their own. Until now, the company has been producing their wine at Montelvini, producing over 2.5 million bottles of Prosecco last year alone. The construction of Giusti Wines’ state-of-the-art facility will open in 2018. The company’s current estates are located between the hills of Montello and the Piave river in the heart of Eastern Veneto, between Treviso, Asolo and Venice. The properties are divided between those on the Piave river basin and those on the slopes. The flatter lands are home to many of the DOC Proseccos and include:

The Rosalia Vineyards in the lowlands of the Piave Basin, a vineyard site that dates back to the mid-1900s. This is the home of Giusti Wines established in 2002.

The Rolando Vineyard is adjacent to the Rosalia Vineyard, a large property of 22.5 hectares. The corporate head office is located here among the rich clay soils. Montello hills are viewable to the northwest. Chardonnay, pinot grigio and glera are planted here.

Casa Bianche has been owned by the family since 1780. Here, chardonnay and Prosecco DOC grapes are planted.

In addition to the lower lying sites, Giusti Wines have been accumulating sites in the hills, the “Collina” sites which are home to grapes prominently featured in higher DOGG status wines, premium reds and resuscitated indigenous grape varieties.  These sites include:

The Abbazia Vineyard the home of several grapes: glera for Prosecco Superiore DOGC, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot, pinot nero chardonnay and manzioni bianco. Umberto I red blend is sourced from this site, named after Giusti’s grandfather.

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The Amelia Vineyard features 11 towering oak trees as sentinels guarding a historical site. It is here that the identity tag of an 18-year old Canadian soldier was found. Joe has commissioned a statue in commemoration of his bravery in WWI in conjunction with NATO. A ceremony is to be held on the 100th anniversary of his death in 2018.

The Ava Vineyard is located in the Montello hills surrounded by dense forests and is home to a great collection of glera for top Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

The Aria Valentina Vineyard adjacent to the Abbazia Vineyard is home to seven types of grapes including the recently restored recantina variety. Recantina is receiving praise of late for its aromatic, fruity bouquet and deep colour. Also planted here is cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and the indigenous perrera variety.

The Maria Vittoria Vineyard is named after Joe Giusti’s wife. This premium site is located on steep slopes at the highest altitude in the Montello region and is exclusive to glera grapes for DOGC Prosecco.

The Emily Vineyard is one of the newer acquisitions and has been carefully planted to the newly restored recantina grape in an effort to increase its chances of a successful renewal.

The Sienna Vineyards are located near the base of the Abbazia Vineyard on the Piave river flood plane and is home to some of the glera for Prosecco Superiore DOCG.

Giusti Wines was in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the creation of the hilly DOCG Asolo Prosecco designation in 2009.  At the same time, DOCG status was given to the more renowned Conegliano-Valdobiaddene Prosecco. The company has significant property in this lesser known DOCG area of Asolo which adds considerable value to its land holdings.  Both of these regions are quite hilly and produce wines of notably higher quality than those of the expansive DOC flatlands. Unlike many producers in Prosecco, Giusti hand-harvests all of their grapes for both their higher tiered DOCG wines and their simpler DOC wine. Often, DOCG wine will be declassified into DOC wine at Giusti to help boost the level of quality at the DOC level – this is not a common regional practice.

In addition to both DOC and DOCG Prosecco, Giusti also produces a chardonnay and pinot noir cuvée called Cuvée Giusti Sparkling whose subsequent vintages will all be made in a traditional method style. As Prosecco is made using the Charmat method, allowing for a secondary fermentation to take place in a pressurized tank, the traditional bottle-fermented cuvée should prove both a step up in price and in quality.

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In recent years, Giusti added both red and white non-sparkling wines to their portfolio which include a pinot grigio from Longheri and a Venetian chardonnay. The red range includes varietal wines such as merlot as well as Valpolicella blends of Ripasso and Amarone from a special site formerly used by the iconic Quintarelli. Augusto and Antonio feature the reclaimed recantina grape variety planted in the Montello Colli Asolani sourced from the Aria and Emily vineyards.  Finally Umberto I, named after Giusti’s grandfather, is a Super Venetian cabernet/merlot blend from the Abbazia site that adds muscle to Giusti’s growing portfolio.

Our Ontario critics recently tasted through a great deal of the Giusti portfolio with Vintage Trade and the top picks from the tasting can be found below and are all available by consignment from Vintage Trade Wine. If you are in Ontario, please contact David at [email protected] (289-242-1496). Contact Michelle at  [email protected] (1-888-454-5126) for the rest of Canada.

Giusti Asolo Prosecco Superiore Brut
Produced from the heartland of Giusti this hilly Asolo based Prosecco is very similar to those of the renowned Conegliano region. It offers complexity, style and imagination with substance and freshness. Sourced from the relatively low-yielding estate vineyards of Aria Valentina, Abbazia and Sienna, this bubbly offers more definition and complexity than the norm.

Giusti Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry

Giusti Cuvee Extra Brut
Based on traditional sparkling varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir, this Charmat method wine will henceforth be bottle fermented in the Champenoise style. Nevertheless, great care has been taken to give this wine a yeasty, leesy appeal with a 9-month ageing period on its lees. It is a pretty penny to pay for a non-traditional method bubbly but it does offer impressive intensity and length.

Giusti Cuvee Extra Brut

Giusti 2014 Dei Carni Chardonnay
We were unexpectedly pleased by the generous nature and character of this well-priced chardonnay from the hilly Montello and Asolo hills. The palate is quite dry and offers salty mineral notes and plenty of tree and melon fruit. The oak plays an unimportant role in terms of flavour allowing for a greater expression of terroir.

Giusti Dei Carni Chardonnay 2014

Giusti 2012 Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore
Even for a Ripasso level Valpolicella blend, this is a bit pricey for most but we all agreed that the depth of this wine was much closer to an Amarone than a simpler Valpolicella blend. Substantial and surprisingly complex, this Ripasso Superiore was a stand-out.

Giusti Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2012

Giusti 2011 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico
Produced from a top-quality site, astutely managed and formerly supplying grapes to the Quintarelli portfolio of wines, the 2011 Amarone is enveloping and powerful with a compelling sensuality.

Giusti Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2011

Giusti 2009 Umberto I Rosso, Veneto, Italy, $125.00
The formidable nature of a top left bank Bordelaise blend is apparent in this substantial but expressive Venetian blend named after Joe Giusti’s grandfather. A touch of appasimento helps the concentration of fruit in this red sourced from relatively young but low-yielding fruit.

Giusti Umberto I Rosso 2009

This feature was commissioned by Vintage Trade. As a regular feature, WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our critics independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to WineAlign. See below for more details provided by the winery and their agent in Canada.


More about Giusti

The Giusti-Dal Col estate, known to the world as Giusti Wine, was established in 2003 by its owner Ermenegildo Giusti who considers Prosecco with the DOC and DOCG designations a product that draws attention to the Veneto region.

After emigrating to Canada Mr Giusti had set up his own company by the time he was 40, his core business being building and large infrastructure projects. He travelled to all four corners of the globe, learning to appreciate wines on all the continents and recognising the quality and renown of French wines. The experience gave him an inkling of what Italian wines needed to gain their rightful place on the world market. He invested a considerable part of his revenue from his Canadian activities in this project and started to purchase the first plots of land on the eastern side of the Montello area, in the Treviso March, as well as at the foot of that same hill where, on the vineyard “Tenuta Rolando”, he built the administrative headquarters of the Wine Estate in 2013.

Today the Estate has approximately 100 hectares of land, 70% of which is already planted with vines, divided into ten TENUTE or vineyards as follows: Tenuta Case Bianche, Tenuta Rosalia, Tenuta Rolando, Tenuta Sienna, Tenuta Abbazia, Tenuta Aria Valentina, Tenuta Emily, Tenuta Ava, Tenuta Amelia and Tenuta Maria Vittoria. The purchase of land and subsequent redevelopment of the Tenute will continue and should be finished by 2017.

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Please visit www.vintagetrade.com  for more information about these wines and the other wines in the Vintage Trade portfolio.

If you would like to order these wines please contact:

Ontario: David Thompson at [email protected] (289-242-1496).

All provinces except Ontario: Michelle Marsden at  [email protected] (1-888-454-5126).

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