Grapes 38 & 39: Mazuelo and Graciano

Messi, Mazuelo and Graciano
Tempranillo rules Spain like it owns a Barza jersey and answers to Messi, there’s no disputing that. But behind Messi is a whole team of supporting grapes that make Tempranillo what it is. Two of those grapes are Mazuelo and Graciano, little known grapes who tend to shy from the spotlight but set up Tempranillo for the MVP Award when it counts.

Spanish Night of Fellini
Personally, I missed the Barza (3) – Manchester (1) final where Messi won his MVP and Spain erupted in a fit of hysteria not seen since oh… the EXACT same thing happened two years ago when Barza defeated Manchester for the final. Fortunately, my brother arrived direct from Spain with a bottle under his arm (and another stashed in his suitcase), with stories of Spanish victories, appropriate wine intake levels and early morning Fellini-esque tales of Spanish celebrations.

Fauns and Fantasia
Mazuelo is the more famous of the two, although it’s only the Spanish who call it that. The rest of Europe calls it “Carignan” and knows it as the grape from the cheaper parts of France that led to the famous “wine lake.” Not sure how “wine lake” came to mean a bad thing since it seems like an amazing faun-centric scene from Fantasia, but France managed to make “wine lake” a bad thing. They produced way more than France (or anyone else) could consume and had to turn hundreds of millions of bottles of wine into industrial alcohol. Surely a faun is crying somewhere.

Graciano’s All Muscles
Graciano grows pretty much only in La Rioja, with some outposts around the world. Mostly, it’s used as the muscle in the body-building world of Old Wines (Reserva and Gran Reserva under the Spanish system). Spain used to consider Graciano a key ingredient in Rioja wines but it’s a hard grape to grow and it’s not as common to find as it once was back in the yesteryears of the 1970s. That said, the grape is coming back and even some entire bottles are now made from 100% Graciano. Mostly though, it remains a blending wine to ensure that Tempranillo has staying power and will be running around Barza’s field for decades to come.

Taste:
Red fruit, lots of fun on the mouth – long smokey finish without annoying tannin power

Detail Up!
2006 Beronia Reserva from Rioja, Spain

Random Googles:
* Californians call Graciano by its awesome persian name – Xeres
* Mazuelo – what NOT to serve to my favorite wine writer
* Mazuelo, aka Carignan, was the #1 most planted grape in France in the late 1970s. The #2 grape (Grenache) had about 1/3 as many vines planted. Two words – “Wine. Lake.”

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