Abel Mendoza, Graciano Grano a Grano, DOCa Rioja, Spain, 2016
Modest, passionate and in no small part obsessive, Abel Mendoza and Maite Fernández have been making understated wines from their old vine vineyards, high up in the Cantabrian mountains near San Vicente de la Sonsierra since the late 80s.
His intimate knowledge of the diverse terroirs in this spectacular part of Rioja is enthralling, and every barrel tasted reveals startling provenance and true character of the vintage. Abel doesn’t make wines that flatter, they don’t speak of oak regimes, but rather of the quality of his fruit, expressed in its most honest form.
For two generations Abel Mendoza's family has been farming vineyards in Rioja, and today works 37 individual parcel, scattered in and around the village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra (towards the border of Rioja Alta and Alavesa). More than anything in the world, Abel cares for his vineyards, each plot tended to enable an authentic expression of the location, and harvested entirely by hand. The grapes planted are all indigenous varietals, including Malvasia, Viura, Tempranillo Blanco and Tinto and Graciano.
Fermentation in small stainless steel tanks and after the wine goes into new French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation where it matures for a total of 18 months until bottled.
% wine oaked: 100
% new oak: 100
Cherry in colour with purple overtones. A perfect balance between primary and secondary aromas, red fruits and fruits in syrup, with elements of citrus, floral, balsamic, vanilla. In the mouth it is fresh with a honey like sensation. There is a spicy background with a hint of balsamic. Persistent wine, meaty and fresh, with a singular complexity which is very pleasant and fresh.
Meat stews, game, Ibérico ham.
Robert Parker 96 Points
The cool 2016 vintage produced a 2016 Graciano Grano A Grano with a low pH and high acidity, but the grapes were perfectly ripe. This is a peppery and spicy Graciano, a grape that likes a warm year. It matured in new French oak barrels, and perhaps the number of 225-liter barrels was higher (they are using more and more 500-liter barrels), as it seems to have marked the wine a little. This wine has the hallmark of the best 2016 reds, expressive, aromatic and open, quite showy. The palate is medium to full-bodied, and the flavors are focused, with the crushed black peppercorns making a glorious comeback on the palate. This should develop nicely in bottle. Another superb Graciano. 2,235 bottles were filled in May 2018. LG, 96 Points, June 2019.
Jancis Robinson 17.5 Points
Startlingly fragrant on the nose – intense wild mint, intense clove, intense crushed lavender and black pepper and blackcurrant bud. At first it was pretty tough, dense, charry and gloweringly dark on the palate. Black-hole wine. Soot-black fruit. It really does need decanting. The next day, the wine was more legible. Sloe and elderberry. Still those soot-dusted, still wild of heart and shaped like a thunderstorm towering deep and bruised and high over black rocks. But now iris-scented and there’s a deep-velvet caress to the fruit. Black chocolate. A wine for a very peppery steak. This needs blood and could probably do with a few more years of ageing. 17.5 Points, TC, August 2022.
6 x 75cl
Award: Decanter 94 Points
Award: Tim Atkin Rioja Report 2023 94 Points
Award: Tim Atkin Rioja Report 2023 93 Points
Award: Tim Atkin Rioja Report 2023 90 Points