Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Mencía, the grape you should be drinking now!

There’s nothing more boring than always drinking the same wine styles, especially when there are so many varieties to try. Something like Mencía, a grape with a fantastic flavor profile and a very affordable price. 

Originally from the Iberian Peninsula, two countries dispute the origins of this grape. On one side Mencía reigns in North Western Spain, where we can find some of the best samples, and more than 9,000 hectares of it, planted in the appellations of Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei and Valdeorras. Yet, DNA tests proved that Mencía is genetically similar to Portuguese Jaen, leading us to think that it may have been born in the Dão region of Portugal, instead. 

Known for its vibrant acidity and freshness, Mencía produces medium to medium plus everyday reds, much depending on where it’s planted. Hillside vineyards of Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra (in Spain), which are rich in slate and quartz, provide beefier wines with mineral notes than those from fruit planted on the flat lands with clay soils. Plus, complex samples of Mencía usually come from very old vines that are naturally low yielding, producing wines that have plenty of concentration. These plantings were rediscovered in the late 1990s and early 2000s by top producers such as Raúl Pérez and Alvaro Palacios (also known for producing wonderful wines in Priorat), both leading to a revival of Mencía in Spain.

Mencía is early budding and mid ripening, and it favors a mild continental climate of warm days with cool nights. In the cellar, producers opt to use carbonic maceration to keep its fruitiness and floral aromas, and to avoid excessive oak that may kill its fragrance. This is mostly above all, because Mencía wines are very aromatic and flavorful with delicious red fruit notes that include sour cherry, redcurrant, and pomegranate, as well as herbaceous notes of mint and thyme. Often compared with Pinot Noir, Mencía also transmits its terroir, so much that we can easily find notes of crushed gravel, graphite or chalk in its wines.

Stylistically, Mencía wines are spicy with supple structures but never a powerbomb themselves, exactly the type of red I could drink every night. Enjoy them when young, ideally within 5 years of release, while their wild red fruit is still fresh.  Pair them with charcuterie, but pasta, duck and veal dishes will pair wonderfully too!

My recommendations: 

First, a big thank you to Msgr Touton Selections for sending these wonderful samples. As I said earlier, the best samples of Mencía come from Spain and especially from the Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra and Valdeorras appellations, so check your labels for those.

Flavium Selección Mencía 2021, D.O. Bierzo, $12.99

Very appealing red with a lovely nose of red currants, macerated cherries and plum, crunchy textured with grippy yet fine tannins.

Alvarez de Toledo Mencía Roble 2021, D.O. Bierzo, $13.99

Fresh and aromatic, showing sour cherry, pomegranate and bramble fruit, with herbal hints and very supple tannins.

Marqués de Montejos Single Vineyard Mencía 2020, VT Castilla y León  $13.99

Attractive with vivid fruit that include ripe raspberry and cranberry jam notes. Savory, with creamy tannins and a smoky long finish.


Hoping you will soon give Mencía a try ! Cheers, Silvina

 #mencia #thoughtsoflawina #winesfromspain #bierzo #winewednesday #drinkupamerica