It’s unusual to find single varietal red wine in Rioja – most are blends dominated by Tempranillo. Graciano is an uncommon red grape that fell out of favour a few decades ago due to its low yields and disease susceptibility. In the 1990s, Rioja winemakers embraced it again and now it’s uncommon but not rare. A few producers (like Baron de Ley) make Graciano into interesting single varietal wines, like this one.
Graciano is a very aromatic, even perfumey grape. This example is part of Baron de Ley’s Varietales series of single varietal bottlings of the main Rioja grapes. (Side note: I really need to source out the rest of these bottles and do a Rioja varietal tasting.)
There is nothing subtle about this wine: it’s an olfactory oak bomb, with effusive vanilla oak aromas that follow through to a similarly oaky vanilla palate. There’s some plum and red currant fruit under the oak, and the palate is surprisingly medium-weight with high acidity. With that much vanilla oak slapping you in the face, you automatically expect a jammy fruit bomb à la Aussie Shiraz or Cali Cab. Nope – this Graciano hides a bit of dry spice and leather behind the oak and has a lovely cranberry sauce finish.
I’m tempted to try pairing this with a classic holiday dinner; I feel like it might be a really good fit for turkey with cranberry sauce.
Name: Baron de Ley Varietales Graciano
Region: Rioja, Spain
Grape: 100% Graciano
Taste: exuberant vanilla oak, red currant, cranberry sauce
Texture: surprisingly medium-bodied and high in acidity – not a jam bomb like the aromas suggest
Rating: 5 oak barrels out of 5