I’m just about over the winter lurgy for this year, and pleased to be drinking interesting wines again. This is one of those wines that I found without looking, an alternative varietal wine from a familiar place, the ArtWine Graciano 2010.
Graciano is largely unfamiliar to me, though a quick look at the Grapes page will show that this is not the first time this grape has turned up in my glass. Rather, it was part of the blend of grapes that made up the Muga Reserva Rioja, and was once widely grown in that region.
A red grape, it buds late and is prone to downy mildew, which combined with low yields, may have been contributing factors to it’s decline (until just recently) in Northern Spain. It is grown in small quantities throughout southern Europe under a variety of synonyms including Tinta Miúda in Portugal, Tintilla de Rota in Jerez, and Bovale Sadro in Sardinia. In Languedoc-Roussillon it is known as Morrastel, which is slightly tricky because the Spanish use that term for the grape which is also known in Spain as Monastrell and in France as Mourvèdre. Apparently it is called Xeres in California where there are some plantings, and Graciana in Argentina which has some vines in Mendoza.
Beyond issues of mildew, yields and confusing synonyms, this is a variety that has had a recent upswing in plantings as modern viticulture finds ways to deal with the first two issues (and DNA profiling has a handle on the third). It’s a desirable variety for its deep colour, perfume, tannins and young acidity, and some producers within Rioja and Navarra have been using it not only in their blends but also as varietal wines.
This is the first Graciano I’ve seen bottled in Australia, though Vinodiversity lists almost 30 producers with plantings, including some who have been featured here with other alternatives varieties such as 919 Wines, Pertaringa, and Yangarra Estate.
This is not my first wine from the Clare Valley, and in fact it’s the third I’ve written up properly, with the very typical Pikes Riesling being the first and the bit of fun pink sparkler from Jim Barry being the second, so for a bit more detail about the region, check out those posts. A quick recap though for those who don’t want to click – it’s an area 120km north of Adelaide known for Riesling and cooler climate styles of red wine. It’s kept cool by altitude and proximity to the coast, and while not as much of a wine powerhouse as the neighbouring Barossa Valley, it certainly has a reputation for excellent wines, many from long established family businesses.
ArtWine is something a bit different. Glen Kelly, with a background in management, bought a Clare vineyard in 2002 and supplemented the existing plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Cabernet Franc and Riseling with new plantings of Tempranillo, Pinot Gris, Viognier, and Graciano. He then partnered with Judy Valon, with a background in marketing, and together they founded their brand in 2007, expanded into a second vineyard, and began producing their own wine in 2008. They also hired in Joanne Irvine, who is from a winemaking family, and who has experience with alternative varieties both in Australia and abroad. They’ve expanded further with a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills planted with Pinot Noir and Merlot, and they’re looking to open a cellar door at that location. The company goal is to focus on alternative varieties and lighter styles of wine, presumably in contrast to the big wines for which much of Australia is known. Wines they currently produce include varietal Riesling, Fiano, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Tempranillo and this Graciano, as well as a Tempranillo / Graciano / Grenache blend.
In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, a medium ruby colour with quick, thick, and coloured legs. On the nose it’s clean, youthful, with plenty of perfume, and plum notes. It has a high intensity of violets and blueberries. On the palate, it’s dry, with medium plus acidity, medium minus tannins, medium plus alcohol, medium body, and medium length. There are notes of somewhat tart blueberries, a little sweet spice, and some red fruit as well but not as much.
I’m rating this wine as good. It certainly is very intense, but in an odd way in that it’s fruit driven, but very tart, cool climate fruit. This is the first varietal Graciano I’ve tried so I can’t really score it on typicity, and while it’s young and fresh, I can’t really say if it would get better with time or if it is at its best now. Still, an interesting wine and I look forward to trying some other varietal Gracianos so I have a better idea as to how to judge this one.
Pin in the map is an address I found for their office in Adelaide, but as I mentioned their vineyards are in the Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills.