The grace of graciano
Highly fragrant, inherently spicy, deeply-coloured and moderately tannic are just some of the attributes of graciano, a Spanish red grape variety that is beginning to get more exposure in Australian bottle shops and restaurants.
In Spain, graciano is primarily found in the northern regions of Rioja and Navarra, where it is frequently blended with other varieties such as tempranillo and garnacha (grenache). But there are also some interesting varietal versions to be found.
Although graciano is a minor player in Australia, interest in the varietal is growing.
Graciano has had a surprisingly long history in Australia. Brown Brothers planted the variety in the 1920s and have made varietal graciano since the 1960s.
The McLaren Vale producer Cascabel has early plantings of graciano. When I look back at my notes from the early 2000s, of both the Brown Brothers Graciano and the Cascabel Tempranillo Graciano blend, I found the wines to be distinctly earthy with herbal accents. Both producers were ahead of their time with their interest in Spanish varietals.
Today there is much fascination with the alternate varietal sector, and winemakers have a greater understanding of the characteristics of these new and different varieties.
The current day examples of graciano I have tried are simply bursting with fruit, with the savoury and herbaceous aspects adding complexity rather than dominating the wine. Woods Crampton makes a great example, with fragrant red and black fruits, gentle spice and bright acidity.
Other producers making graciano include Artwine, of the Adelaide Hills, whose graciano was recently awarded a silver medal at the Sydney Royal Wine Show; Paxton, who make a biodynamic example from their McLaren Vale vineyard; Xanadu, who make graciano off the Stevens Road property; and Mount Majura, whose 2015 Graciano represents their tenth release of this variety.
Brown Brothers currently have a 2015 Graciano available online and from their cellar door.
In an article, almost thirty years ago in the Sydney Morning Herald, by none other than Huon Hooke, he reported that Brown Brothers made a tiny amount of graciano because,
“74-year-old John Brown senior likes it and believes there is a market for it.”
“Some day time will prove him right,” writes Hooke.
One suspects that time has come.