Viña Ijalba, Graciano "Ijalba"
Viña Ijalba, Graciano "Ijalba"

Viña Ijalba, Graciano "Ijalba"

La Rioja, Spain 2020 (750mL)
Regular price$32.00

Viña Ijalba, Graciano "Ijalba"

Since the debut of its “varietal” Graciano in 1995, Viña Ijalba has made this also-ran Rioja grape their calling card—and their success with this finicky variety has since spawned several imitators. Historically used in small percentages in blends dominated by Tempranillo, Graciano is a distinctive, if low-yielding, cultivar that most Rioja producers moved away from—but not the innovative Dionisio Ruiz, who founded Ijalba in 1975 with a mission to celebrate the region’s native grapes. This kind of affordable rarity is sommelier catnip (especially for any sommelier who prizes a noteworthy by-the-glass list), but you certainly don’t need to be a sommelier to appreciate what’s on offer here—the opportunity to drink something completely authentic, artisanal, and organic rather than something generic, mass-produced, and engineered. Frankly, those are your choices at this price point, and how anyone would choose the second option over the first is beyond comprehension. This ink-hued beauty is delicious, affordable, and unlike anything you’ve had before. How could you pass it by?

It bears repeating that while other 100% Graciano wines from Rioja do exist, you’d be hard-pressed to find them. Further, there’d be no reason to stray from Ijalba, the “O.G.” in the category, whose 20 hectares of Graciano represent the largest single holding of the variety in the world. It’s one of the many unique features of the Certified Organic Ijalba estate, which is a model of sustainable production: Octogenarian proprietor Dionisio Ruiz, whose primary business is mining, planted his first vineyards in a former gravel pit and has continued to transform defunct quarries and mining sites into vineyards over the years. In addition to re-purposing these sites, he has also labored to resurrect not just Graciano but also the red and white versions of Maturana, another local specialty that has mostly fallen by the wayside, and the rare Tempranillo Blanco.

This 2020 is 100% Graciano, a variety known for its deep, inky color and assertive aromas of purple fruits and flowers. This now-iconic example is fermented in large, upright oak vats and then aged in a 50%-50% combination of new and used barrique barrels for 10 months. In the glass, it displays a nearly opaque purple-ruby core and some visible viscosity. Perfumed aromas of mulberries, blackberries, and damp violets are complemented by savory notes of black pepper, paprika, and dusty earth. There’s great concentration of fruit counterbalanced by ferrous, iodine-like minerality, and the acidity is brisk—it’s as meaty and tangy as it is fruity, and therefore not something you want to uncork as a “cocktail” wine. No, this wine craves some food, be it a steak or burger off the grill or something more Rioja-inspired, like lamb chops or a stew of beef cheeks in red wine. Decant it about 15 minutes before serving at 60 degrees in large Bordeaux stems and strap in for a fun ride.
Viña Ijalba, Graciano "Ijalba"

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