Graciano is a Spanish red wine grape of ancient origin and has been grown all around the Mediterranean under various synonyms. It is not particularly productive, due to low fertility, small clusters, and small berries, but there has been increased interest in this variety because its fruit quality potential is high, even when grown in warm or hot climates. Its acidity, tannins, and aroma are particularly notable.
Origins and History
Graciano originated from Spain’s Navarra and La Rioja regions. The name Graciano comes from the word gracia (grace), with the name serving to indicated how well the variety works in blends. The large number of synonyms for Graciano in Spain and other Mediterranean countries points to it being an old and widespread cultivar. It is hypothesized that Graciano was introduced from Spain to Sardinia after the kingdom of Sardinia was taken over by the Aragonese in the 1300’s, resulting in the Bovale Sardo synonym. In the 2000’s DNA profiling revealed that Graciano is identical to both the Sardinian Bovale Sardo and the Cagnulari varieties, while being a relative of the Parraleta variety. Additionally, DNA analyses indicate that Graciano is likely a parent of the Mandon variety from the Bierzo region in north-west Spain. In 1855 Graciano and Petit Bouschet were crossed by Henri Bouschet, resulting in the Morrastel Bouschet variety. Finally, comparisons between the DNA profiles of Graciano (Morrastel) and Mouvedre (Monastrell) has disproved a close relationship between the two varieties, with the only similarity being between the spellings of their synonyms.
Graciano is easily distinguishable in the spring, since its entire budburst has a reddish appearance. Shoot tips are covered in a pubescence, with young leaflets showing tawny rose spots on the upper surface. The canes and tendrils are like cabernet sauvignon, with its canes being slightly hairy, long, and cylindrical. Its internodes are of medium size and have bright red streaks. The leaves are generally three or five lobed, medium-large in size, thick, and pentagonal or orbicular. Adult leaves are dark green. The underside of the leaf is hairy, while the top of the leaf is green, hairless and smooth. Its lateral sinuses are narrow and shallow. The petiolar sinus is generally closed and U-shaped. The teeth on the leaves are short-medium size and uneven, with the petiole being long, thin, and reddish towards the base. The berry clusters are medium-sized, short, and closely packed, with cylindrical wings (less prominent than Tempranillo). The berries are medium sized, almost perfectly round, and have a deep black color. The skin of the berries is thin, tough, and elastic. The flesh of the berries are colorless and thick, containing very thick seeds. The juice is described as “abundant, tangy, and quite pleasant.” Grapes grown at the University of California Kearney Agricultural Center in Parlier, CA, were generally ready to harvest by mid-September.
Graciano is a high vigor vine, with low bud fertility, thereby producing low yields, averaging 8-15 t/ha. It is very compatible with the rootstocks common to California. Graciano does well on limestone-clay soils. Since it has a longer growth cycle it prefers rootstocks that also have longer growth cycles. The vine’s bearing is semi-erect to erect, liking long growing seasons and being well adapted to drought conditions, limestone soils, and hillside terroirs. Traditionally, Graciano was know as a finicky cultivar. However, there are reports that the warming climate is making it easier to grow
The grape has traditionally been used in Rioja blends, but in recent years it has been made into varietal wines, earning excellent reviews. It is known to age well, with the wine being bright red, fragrant, fresh, potentially powerful, occasionally spicy and having a pronounced acidity. It appears to be an ideal variety for producers in dry summer regions with high heat indexes and/or longer growing seasons looking to sell berries to upper end niche winemakers.
Robinson, J., J. Harding, J. Vouillamoz. 2012. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, New York