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The Graciano Grape

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About Graciano

(Synonyms: Bastardo Nero, Bois Dur, Bordelais, Cagliunari, Cagnonale, Cagnovali Nero, Cagnulari, Cagnulari Bastardo, Cagnulari Sardo, Cagnulatu, Caldareddu, Caldarello, Cargo Muol, Cendrón, Courouillade, Courouillade, Couthurier, Drug, Graciana, Graciano Tinto, Grosse Negrette, Jerusano, Karis, Marastel, Matarou, Minostello, Minustello, Monastel, Monestaou, Morastel, Morestel, Morrastel, Mourastel, Perpignan, Perpignanou Bois Dur, Plant De Ledenon, Tanat Gris, Tinta Do Padre Antonio, Tinta Miuda, Tintilla, Tintilla de Rota, Uva Cagnelata, Xeres, Xerez, Zinzillosa.)


Map showing Rioja

Graciano is a red-wine grape originating in the Rioja region of Spain. Spanish wines, like most Old World wines, are typically blends named for the region from which they spring. In Rioja wines, Graciano was usually a small percentage of the blend (though important, contributing structure and aging potential). Of late, its use had been fading, owing to the vines' being quite low yielding.

(As the FringeWine blog puts it, "One might be inclined to think that Graciano has been relegated to blending grape status because it is an inferior grape. In fact, Oz Clarke says that it is 'far and away the most interesting red vine in Rioja', and Jancis Robinson writes 'it is to the Riojanos' shame that so little Graciano survives in their vineyards today.' If the wine is so good, then why, as recently as 1999, was vineyard acreage so low that the Spanish government was giving subsidies for planting Graciano in Rioja vineyards? The answer is that Graciano is notoriously low-yielding and susceptible to downy mildew, which means it needs more attention in the vineyards. It's an economic decision that it's hard to find fault with on a large scale.")

Recently, though, with wider recognition of the grape's ability to produce powerfully aromatic wines of deep color and intense, distinctive flavor that age very well (Oz Clarke's remarks on that notwithstanding), there has been an upsurge of interest, and bottlings that are dominantly Graciano or, not uncommonly, monovarietal have been appearing. Indeed, it is nowadays generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page).

The vines thrive in warm, arid climates; there is now also some interest in the grape in the Lodi area of California, which seems well suited to it. It is also grown in Australia.

In Rioja, whence most Graciano still, red wines are classified into one of four categories. In rising order of supposed quality, those are: Rioja, young wines; crianza, wines aged at least two years, with at least one of those on oak; Rioja Reserva, aged at least three years, with at least one of those on oak; and Rioja Gran Reserva, aged at least two years on oak and at least three more in bottle. If that sounds like a lot, some bodegas (wineries) in times past would age their wines for 15 or even 20 years before releasing them. (Wikipedia cites "the Marqués de Murrieta which released its 1942 vintage gran reserva in 1983 after 41 years of aging.")

Factoid: some say the grape's name derives from the word gracia, meaning "joy" or "grace" (hence gracias); others say that because it is so difficult to grow well, growers offered cuttings habitually replied "No, gracias!"

Some Descriptions of Graciano Wines

Some Gracianos to Try

(About this list.)

Monovarietal Graciano is now easier to find than was the case not so long ago, though good ones at reasonable prices are still not common. Still, there are some bargains to be had if one hunts.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Bodegas Tobia Graciano
(This is not their "Alma" Graciano bottling.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Inky violet and pleasingly tannic, a glass of this Graciano is like freshly squeezed fruits of the forest. It has good depth and is long lasting in the mouth. Perfectly mouth watering with Spanish cured meats such as Chorizo, Salchicon or even Cecina (cured beef). 10 months in oak gives the wine a good finish and leaves you wanting a second glass!

The 2010 Graciano is sourced from a vineyard in Rioja Baja and has aged for 15 months in new Hungarian barrels, which could be the reason why it smells a bit roasted, with plenty of dark ripe fruit, blueberries and cassis, plus a very polished palate with surprisingly sweet tannins for the variety and a great integrated acidity. A great, exotic, approachable, hedonistic Graciano which is good value. 91 points. [Wine Advocate]

[Google-translated from Spanish:] In sight: Burgundy red of great luminosity. In nose: Very fruity with spice and balsamic backgrounds. In mouth: Nice fruity touches. Persistent. 89 points.

[Google-translated from Romanian:] It is a ruby ​​wine, intense both in color and smell. The nose emanated from elegant notes of sweet wood and cherries. The mouth comes out of anonymity with its cinnamon shrimps and the humorous vegetable effusions. Tannins are live, fibrous and make this wine a little exercise even after the 5 years spent in the bottle. 85 points.

Rio Madre Graciano

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[It] begins with a really pleasant aroma of blackberry, licorice, cola and a hint of smoke. The aroma is so good you really can't wait to take your first sip (and then your second and third and...) Tasting this lush, delicious wine reminds me a bit of a big, bold Zinfandel. It features similar flavors as the bouquet with tons of rich fruit and some added wild cherry jolly rancher. A really nice spicy streak builds all the way through the long finish which also highlights some lingering smoky notes. Great Graciano, this is good stuff!

Opaque violet color with spicy ripe mixed berry, cola, licorice, and a bit of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and fresh with blackberry, pomegranate, cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Medium long finish. Rating: A- (90pts): This wine is a way over delivers in terms of quality for the prices. The best thing I can say about it, is that I will buy more! Check it out!

♣ Wine Advocate (October 2012), 91 points

♣ International Wine Cellar (September 2012), 90 points

It exhibits slightly riper blackberry fruit intermixed with notions of licorice, wood smoke, camphor and a vivid floral display.

I just love it when I open a bottle and the aromas waft out like a wine genie slithering out to grant your wish. Swirl this bad boy around as scents of ripe blackberry, cherry and pepper notes smack you like a Colonel’s white glove challenging you to a duel. . . This wine is superlative: plush, it’s got bite, it’s got fruit, dreamy nose – it’s the whole damned package.

One of my favorite value reds right now is the Rio Madre Graciano Rioja 2011 (Grade=Outstanding). . . Medium-bodied with loads of red fruits and white spices, it is almost tailor-made for this time of year, revealing hints of peppermint beneath its juicy veneer of red currant paste, roasted red cherries and touches of mulberry pie. Clocking in under $10, this wine is a steal.

The color is a medium, grapey ruby with some purple. The light to medium nose reveals cherry, berries, and something else! In the mouth the youthful fruit stands on the tongue at first. There is a backbone of acidity to this moderate bodied wine. The fine+ grapey tannins mix with tart, red fruit in the middle. It is a little rough in the finish followed by a slightly earthy, long aftertaste. Quite drinkable with half an hour of air and a solid value. ***

Inky ruby. Spice-accented aromas and flavors of black and blue fruits and cola, with notes of dark chocolate and licorice. Concentrated and powerful on the palate, with a spicy note building with air. Intense licorice, blackcurrant and bitter cherry notes linger on the spicy, youthfully tannic finish. Outstanding value here; there are very few all-graciano Riojas made, and they all cost a lot more than this one.

Blackberry, black currant, and marzipan introduce the aroma with cinnamon raisin bread, hints of prune, dried herbs, and pipe tobacco showing in the background. Rich, dark, and bold, this wine is intensely inky and concentrated. Violets and very dark chocolate show at first on the palate with black stone, dried flower petals, and prunes appearing toward the finish. This is a serious, deep and silky wine with an almost grilled, bitter edge that gives some real personality. If you like… dark, inky wines like Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot this is a very impressive, excellent value (5/5).

[D]eep, saturated purple color; intense aromatics; savory dark fruit flavors; and brooding earthiness. It comes across as plush but not "sappy" or "jammy", as the bright acidity keeps the ripe fruit in perfect balance. This harmonious Spanish red is a terrific value at $10 the bottle.

Viña Zorzal Graciano

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Wonderfully heady with powerful mulberry scents and juicy fruit. Great impact! Then vibrant and lively. Real lift. Precise and surely no oak but pure fruit. Amazing length. 16.5

Fabulous big, juicy intensity of immediate red berry fruits make this hugely attractive for an everyday wine. It’s uncomplicated with all its focus being on fresh fruits; it's well balanced.

♣ International Wine Cellar (September 2012), 89 Points

Vivid ruby. Bright, spice-accented aromas of cherry and redcurrant, with a deeper licorice note building with air. Youthfully taut red fruit flavors show good depth and pick up spiciness with air. Dusty tannins add grip and shape to the finish, which features notes of bitter cherry and cracked pepper.

This dark ruby colored Spanish wine opens with a very fragrant clove and rad raspberry bouquet. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and quite juicy. The flavor profile is an oak infused ripe plum with hints of black pepper and clove. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins stick around for a little while. 88

[O]ne of those rare wine finds that immediately excites with its explosive fruit, sheer drinkability and refinement.

Brilliant, fruity red, perfect for everyday drinking yet with enough character to keep you interested.

The wine is straight forward, rustic, deep and simple. We had two bottles of this over a few nights and this really shone after a night in the fridge. So next time I would recommend a bit of air and time for the wine to open up. . . I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to track down another one, but this bottle was certainly enjoyable enough. If I had kept one of the two bottles, I would be putting it down for a couple more years to let the tannins do their work.

[F]ully ripe with plenty of silky blackcurrant fruit, but with enough acidity and tannin to keep it fresh and balanced.

Beautifully smooth, supple and tight dark cherry fruit with a sappy green edge. Medium bodied. Sweet, pure and elegant with nice spiciness and attractive greenness. Seems simple and fruity at first but there's more to it. Very stylish. 91/100

For a Splurge

There don't seem to be any monovarietal Gracianos nontrivially better than the few in the list above.





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