2017 Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce “Rio Madre” Graciano, Rioja, Spain.
A super value priced Spanish red, made from 100% Graciano and crafted by winemaker, Ana Escudero at Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce from vines in the Rioja region, this Rio Madre showing rich/ripe fruit along with delicate floral notes and snappy spiciness, it is without question a savvy buy and well made wine to enjoy anytime and without guilt. Bodegas y Vinedos Ilurce is a unique winery for Rioja, mainly making wines that have little or no Tempranillo and has gained a reputation as a Graciano champion and specialist, with this version a collaborative effort with the famed US importer Jorge Ordóñez, exclusive to the United States. This vintage is opulent, highlighting the warm of the Spanish sunshine, which was especially warm in 2017, with lush raspberry, plum and strawberry fruits leading the way on the smooth full palate along with a lingering soft creamy dimension of kirsch and hints of cedar and baking spices. Graciano, usually a background component in Rioja wines along with Garnacha, does make for very intriguing single varietal wines and this Rio Madre is a fun and easy way to start off with when discovering this grape which is also known as Tintilla and found as far away as the Canary Islands and in California where Dylan Sheldon of Sheldon Wines makes a stunning version.

The Rio Madre Graciano is sourced from vines that are up to 90 years old set on soils that are characterized by stony alluvial deposits of the Ebro River and are up at close to 500 meters above sea level in Rioja Baja mountain range. To keep fresh details and balance, Ana Escudero uses a combination of stainless, concrete and used French oak to ferment and raise this tasty Rioja wine, with all the grapes coming from sustainable farming practices without irrigation or the use of pesticides. To keep the focus on the pure fruit all the grapes were careful sorted and de-stemmed with a well judged maceration to extract color and depth of flavor, again, as noted, using some stainless steel fermenters and cement vats keeping temperatures cool, the aging with some in the neutral barrels adds to the supple layering in this exceptional for the price offering. Jorge Ordóñez has over the last twenty years has been a great ambassador for Spanish wines and has introduced America to many lesser known Spanish grapes from Monastrell (Mourvèdre) to Verdejo and was big player in getting Albariño to the US market, as well as promoting some of the classics from well known regions like Rioja, along with Toro and the Ribera del Duero. The Rio Madre Rioja is a great party wine and crowd pleaser, making for a juicy clean red that goes great with a range of cuisine, drinks nicely on its own and certainly more exotic than most wines in its price class!
($12 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

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