Graciano Wine & Grape Profile
Last Updated on February 12, 2020.
Graciano has become a victim of its own uniqueness: it was once one of the most important grapes in Rioja but low yields and disease lead it to be largely abandoned in favor of more vigorous varietals. Thankfully, a few determined winemakers have worked to bring it back into favor and that’s a trend we’re hoping will continue.
The Terroir of Graciano
Because it ripens late, Graciano needs consistent warmth to move it away from strong vegetable notes. Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa are just a bit too cool and it therefore is found more commonly in the hotter Rioja Baja region. It is there that winemakers have found that it can truly thrive and can be crafted into wines of depth and complexity.
Graciano & Rioja Blend Tasting Notes
Graciano is a black-skinned grape that yields deep, dark juice with intense blackberry and mulberry fruit aromas. Graciano also is known for violet, mint, and cedar notes that balance out vanilla-oak influence found in Rioja wines, however subtle they may be. Graciano typically also displays cinnamon, cloves and black pepper spiciness. On its own, it produces lower-alcohol wines (about 12 – 13% ABV) with heady aromas. In a Rioja, it can be more difficult to tease out its influence but balanced acidity and age-worthiness are both certainly traits that can come from this grape variety.
Graciano & Rioja Food Pairings
The complexity of Graciano means that it can pair with some pretty interesting dishes. When seeking an ideal pairing, think about meat-based dishes. Graciano works best with well-spiced lamb, brisket, tri-tip, or grilled chorizo. It can also work with non-red meat dishes as long as the flavor is strong enough; blue cheese, blackened cajun catfish, or spicy black tapenade can all work well.
Wine Growing Regions for Graciano
Although Graciano is included in blends throughout Rioja, most of it is cultivated in the Rioja Baja. According to DOCa laws, a wine that is 100% Graciano can be labeled as a Rioja DOCa but most winemakers make a point to state that it is Graciano and not a standard Tempanillo-centric blend. Outside of Rioja, it also can be found in the Navarra region of Spain.
Since New World winemakers tend to be open to experimentation, some California winemakers have begun experimenting with the varietal as well. Hot regions like Santa Ynez Valley are perfect for this late ripener.
Check out some of these Gracianos and Graciano blends from around the world:
- Burgo Viejo, Graciano, Rioja, Spain
- Vina Ijalba, Graciano, Rioja, Spain
- Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce, ‘Rio Madre’ Graciano, Rioja, Spain
- La Rioja Alta, Gran Reserva 904, Rioja, Spain
- Vina Zorzal, ‘Cuatro del Cuatro’ Graciano, Navarra, Spain
- Verdad, Graciano, Santa Ynez Valley, Central Coast, California
Learn About These Other Wine Grape Varieties
Written By Jamie Metzgar
Jamie Elizabeth Metzgar began her career in wine by pouring in a tasting room on the East End of Long Island, NY. After moving to New York City, she landed a position at Chambers Street Wines where she was encouraged to pursue wine education at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET). She earned Level III certification there and has since earned California Wine Appellation Specialist and Certified Specialist of Wine certifications as well. After way too many moves, she has recently landed in Northern California where she is compiling an unofficial roster of dog-friendly tasting rooms.
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