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The Mencía Grape

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About Mencía

(Synonyms: Fernao Pires Tinta, Giao, Jaen, Loureiro Tinto, Mencin, Negra, Negro, Tinto Mencia, Tinto Mollar, Uva Mencia.)


Map showing the regions where Mencía is today grown

Mencía is a red-wine grape originating in Spain, where it is today grown primarily in the appellations of Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, and Valdeorras, which lie in the regions of Castile y Leon and Galicia. It was formerly a relatively minor varietal, but over the past two decades has emerged into notably greater popularity.

In older days, Mencía was usually made as a light-bodied, light-colored, aromatic (and often somewhat astringent) red for early consumption--a sort of Spanish Beaujolais. More recently (as with many grapes) its potential for greater things has been recognized, and significantly deeper, richer, more complex versions are being made, with old-vine bottlings leading the way.

Descriptions of the better Mencías of today are typical of any good red: dark fruit (black cherry, raspberry, blackberry), herbs, earthiness. Remember, it was long confused with Cab Franc, so there is another guideline. But if those sound generic, be assured that most tasters find Mencia distinctive and clearly varietal; as one winemaker put it, "the world didn't need another claret."

Factoid: Mencía is apparently the same grape as Portugal's Jaen. It is not at all related to Cabernet Franc, though such a relation was long suspected owing to similarities of aromas.

Some Descriptions of Mencía Wines

Some Mencías to Try

(About this list.)

Mencias are readily available, and all over the price spectrum, from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Here, to get you started, we list just a few of the under-$20 bottlings available, because pretty much every wine writer seems to have his or her favorites, and only a few makers get multiple mentions. That is probably because, as one observed, "It's hard to find bad Bierzo" (or, really, any Mencia); so, feel free to snap up pretty much any Mencia bottling you find that's in your price comfort zone. Keep in mind the various notes above about the two broad classes of stylings, and have fun.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Avancia "Cuvee Mosteiro" Mencía
(This is not their basic bottling. The winery name is sometimes spelled "Avanthia": beware.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks: as Avancia & as Avanthia
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
The 2010 Avancia Cuvee Mosteiro 100% Mencia from head-pruned vines planted between 1920 and 1935 underwent malo in French oak, and the wine spent 12 months in wood prior to being bottled. It displays lots of black and blue fruits blueberries and a hint of raspberries. Deep, rich and full-bodied as well as elegant and precise, this beauty can be enjoyed over the next 5-6 years. Think of it as a ripe Loire Valley Cabernet Franc on steroids. 90 points. [Wine Advocate, November 2013]

Savory notes of tobacco, game and tar frame cherry and plum fruit in this expressive red. Firm tannins support a thick texture, while balsamic acidity keeps this balanced. 89 points. [Wine Spectator, 15 December 2015]

Deep ruby. Ripe blueberry, boysenberry and wood smoke aromas are accented by notes of licorice and nutmeg. Lush, broad and viscous, especially for the variety, with densely packed flavors of black and blue fruits, bitter chocolate and mocha. Finishes supple and sweet, with very good persistence and no obvious tannins. 91 points [International Wine Cellar, September/October 2014]

Smoky, charred, roasted blueberry and green-herb aromas set up a rubbery palate with modest form and structure. Blue-fruit flavors feature notes of bacon and bitterness, while this comes across green, herbal and stewed on the finish. 85 points.

Descendientes de José Palacios "Pétalos" Mencía
(Bierzo; a blend, c. 95% Mencia)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
Appearance: Wine is clear, dark red at the core with a water white rim. Aroma: Nice aromas of black cherry and cola, with a nice hint of oak. Some reviews I have read mention licorice, but I did not get any - too bad, I love licorice! Taste: Nice acidity with nicely balanced tannins. The aftertaste is a balance of fruit with minerality, very delicious. The Grade: I give this one an A.

If you love violets, blueberries and a hint of black pepper, this elegant, 95 percent Mencia blend is for you.

♣ International Wine Cellar (September 2012), 91 Points.

♣ Wine Spectator (31 December 2012), 91 Points; #57 of "Top 100 Wines of 2012"; "Smart Buys" designation; #26 of "Top 100 Wines of 2011".

♣ Wine Advocate (February 2009), 92 Points.

The entry-level wine (what an entry!) is the 2007 Petalos del Bierzo, 100% Mencia from vineyards ranging in age from 40 to 90 years. It spends its first few weeks in new French barriques before transfer to seasoned oak for 6 to 10 months. Saturated purple in color, it offers up a super-fragrant bouquet of smoke, violets, mineral, wild blueberry, and black raspberry. Fruity yet complex on the palate, it has superb depth, grip, and balance. This sexy effort can be enjoyed over the next six years but only hedonists need apply.

Dark ruby. Ripe red- and blackcurrant aromas are complicated by anise, cola and sexy oak spices. Soft dark berry preserve flavors gain minerality and firmness with air. Zesty cherry skin and mineral notes carry through a long, gently tannic finish.

This plush red delivers black cherry, licorice, mineral and smoke flavors. Harmonious and focused, supported by well-integrated tannins and firm acidity. Not a showy wine, but has complexity and depth.

60-year-old Mencia and 10 months in used French oak. Bright cherry red and lovely supple fruit with just a hint of graphite. Complete juicy, neat wine that tastes less tha 14% alcohol. Bone dry finish but such fluidity. Just lovely stuff. 17/20

The first thing that hits you is the most attractive floral bouquet… hence the “Petalos” moniker. If you are new to the red wines of Bierzo I wholeheartedly recommend this wine as your entry point. Whilst not exhibiting some of the complexities inherent to the single vineyard Mencias, this wine shows exceptionally well, with black raspeberries and a great expression of pure dark fruit. Even at this level Palacios produces wines with a substantial minerality. Very good indeed. ****

[V]very aromatic, with notes of violets, blueberries and licorice. It has medium body, good acidity, with strawberry fruit, spice, and well integrated oak.

The Descendientes De Jose Palacios "Petalos" (Bierzo, Spain) 2009 [Very Good] is a showy wine. . . But the wine is alcoholic (14.5%) and the flavors run toward overripe fruit. It seems that the super-ripe fruit also required acidity adjustments; the balance of the wine is not as good as it could be. Still, this is ripe, tasty wine, "hedonistic" as Parker would say. Dark ruby in color, the aromas show a touch of toasty oak, with strong notes of spice, fennel, licorice and lacquer, on top of black raspberry fruit. Medium to full bodied, with somewhat artificial zippy acidity and grippy tannins, there is a racy quality to the wine on first taste. The Petalos has abundant flavors of black raspberry, prune, black pepper, anise and a metallic minerality. As the wine airs the fruit shows more overripe qualities. The finish is well structured and fairly long, but the overripeness of the fruit detracts, as does unintegrated toasty oak. This is a tasty wine, but was probably better in its infancy, when its freshness was more pronounced.

A bright youthful ruby red colored wine with a highly concentrated core. The fruits on the nose ranges from wild raspberries to red berries subsequently pepper-like spice and subtle bacon. Alcohol also coming through. A developing medium bodied wine with quite low fine-grained tannins of the stalky kind, plenty amount of fruity flavor intensity and a high invigorating and fresh acidity. Alongside the wild raspberries and red plums the alcohol is striking me as a bit over the top and becomes more apparent by the spicy pitch. Sweet wild raspberry lingers and jams in a lengthy aftertaste. Bierzo and Mencia grapes continues to bringing good value to the table, including this entry-level wine from Descendientes de José Palacios. Refreshing and brilliant despite the small spiking. 89 points.

Guimaro Mencía "Ribeira Sacra"
(Beware: they make many Mencías with roughly similar names.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
The wine leads off with a fresh, very lively nose of blueberry, black cherry and wild plum fruit, spiced up with whiffs of bay leaves and tobacco. Very coolly textured, round and smooth in the mouth, with a fine acid/tannin balance and a distinctly mineral finish. It's both firm and taut yet not at all hard. . . Riding solidly into day two, there was still plenty of bright red fruit, a slight leaning-out in the textural department, and the emergence of enticing aromas of cured meat and salami spices. On the surface, this is juicy, pleasurable, hard-not-to-drink-the-whole-bottle vino, but there's the kind of meaningful substance to it — structure, length and penetrating flavors, a real sense of individuality — that delivers far beyond the overwhelming majority of wines at its $15 price point.

Pedro Guimaro has quickly become a rising star in an area that's getting tremendous attention. This latest young bottling of Mencia, from steep slopes and aged in old wood and steel, is generous and a bit more soft-edged in its fruit, just the counterpoint to the heady pimenton [paprika] aromatics that mark these wines.

♣ International Wine Cellar (November/December 2010), 89 Points.

♣ Wine Advocate (February 2013), 91 Points.

The 2011 Guimaro Joven is muted on the nose compared to the 2010 as it had just been bottled. The palate shows great potential with soft, luscious black fruit laced with white pepper and an undercurrent of green bell pepper. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, silky tannins and a very composed, focused finish that caresses the mouth. Dry, taut and very focused, this is an outstanding wine.

Bright purple. Very fresh, energetic aromas of redcurrant and pomegranate, with complicating notes of cracked pepper and Indian spices. Shows deeper cherry and licorice in the mouth, with a bitter chocolate nuance and strong minerally cut. This is carrying 14.5% alcohol but I wouldn’t have guessed that.

This beautiful and spicy red from Spain’s northwest is made from the Mencia grape which has similar qualities to Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir with dark color, medium weight, lots of spice and delicate flavors. The Guimaro is as pure as it gets for this varietal and is a stunning value for this unique and rare wine from Ribeira Sacra. The 2011 Guimaro Mencia starts with rose petals, wild strawberry and pepper notes with subtle mineral tones, dried currants and sweet herbs while the palate features more of the same along with cherry and plum fruits, cayenne and loamy earth notes. This young and fresh wine is bright and packed with delicious charm, drink over the next few years. 92 Points.

Stepping outside the box, I love Spain’s Mencia grape, which just happens to be Portugal’s Jaen. Guimaro Joven 2010 had a wonderful intensity of spice from start to finish. Gorgeous!

This red from Galicia has juicy, fresh fruit and soft tannins. It’s a good introduction to the local Bordeaux-like Mencía grape.

It is dark purple in the glass. The wine is light to medium bodied. The high acidity makes it seem like a bigger wine. The fruit it tart and there are no signs of oak. Spice and alcohol on the finish. It reminds me of Syrah and Grenache somehow. I think food is a must for this young table wine.

Vinos de Finca "Losada" Mencía
(Don't confuse this with their like-named "Altos" bottlings.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
Generous yet focused, this red delivers black cherry, plum, blood orange, chocolate and toasty flavors, with savory notes of licorice and fennel. Light tannins and citrusy acidity support the fleshy texture. Expressive. 91 points. [Wine Spectator, 31 May 2017]

Meaty leathery blackberry aromas are less dressed up and polished than in past vintages. This Mencía feels jammy, wide and chunky, while flavors of spicy blackberry are limited. A toasty oaky lightly charred finish closes out this full-bodied offering from a tough cool year. 89 points.

They reduced the amount of oak for the 2013 Losada, trying to show more the Mencía character in the wine. The nose denotes more freshness, it doesn't seem as concentrated as in previous vintages, and the palate also shows better balance. I like the direction this cuvée is going within the house style…ripeness with freshness. The palate shows great intensity of flavors and power with balance. A very good, young and powerful Mencía. 90 points. [Wine Advocate, 1 April 2016]

Bright ruby. Aromas of ripe red and dark berries, smoky minerals, anise and potpourri. Sweet, penetrating and pure, offering ripe black raspberry and cherry flavors that deepen and spread out on the back half. Delivers a solid punch of flavor but comes off as lithe, finishing with strong thrust and persistence and sneaky, late-arriving tannins. 92 points. [Vinous, 1 January 2016]

Losada wines are dark, dense, heady creatures. This high-end version is pumping deep mineral and lead aromas alongside cassis, berry and toasted notes. The palate is upright like a good cadet, with lively acidity and blackberry and spice flavors. This is big and modern but not extreme. 93 points, #67 on Top 100 List.

Still tannic [2009 tasted in 2013], with lingering flavors of smoky red fruit.

Bodega del Abad "Abad Dom Bueno" Mencía
(Don't confuse this with their like-named "Crianza" or "Roble" bottlings.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
Dark plum and wet forest floor aromas from the cork. Medium+ aromatics offering barnyard, earth, sweet spice and blackberry. It is full-bodied with warm blackberry, black cherry, cedar, earthy, and meaty flavours. Acids are mouthwatering. Tannins are dense, grainy, and a bit rough. Plenty of earthy, savoury notes on the long finish. 88+ points.

[Google-translated from Spanish:] As soon as we begin to serve, we notice that his coat is high and well covered, he has a good tear that he drinks the glass at his slow pace. Dark cherry color with a more violet edging. It gives off aromas of ripe fruit, glimpses of spices and violets, has minerality and dairy products in equal parts. It is in the mouth where it shows its power, is fleshy, fresh, fruity and with a point of salinity that adding to tannins well tamed, endow it with a complexity that is the sea of ​​pleasant. The wood appears timidly bringing to the set roundness in its finish. In general terms, it is a very well finished wine that is elegant for anyone who is tasting it…

This mencia was harvested from old vineyards in the outskirts of Villafranca. Its structure is monolithic, as impenetrable as a wall of slate, showing black fruits, spices and a mouthwatering acidity. A sure bet to lay down for at least five years and enjoy with roast venison. 92 points.

Though gracefully aged, this still offers juicy red cherry and currant flavours with a vanilla accent. A refreshing acidity enhances the core of soft tannins, so could stand to be slightly chilled before decanting.

This is 100% Mencía fruit sourced from stony vineyards and vines averaging 35 years of age. Piquant spice, rose petals and a red and black currant bouquet introduce a juicy stream of tang-laden, red berry fruit—currant, cranberry and wisps of raspberry. It’s mid-full weight with decent mouthfeel and a lingering, quite dry, mouth-watering finish. It’s well-priced and interesting in that it has some age, but drink up soon.

At first, this smells gaseous and rubbery, but airing reveals ripe blackberry aromas, graphite and warmth. In the mouth, this Mencía is jammy and woody; flavors of resiny, salty black fruits are chunky, while barrel influences carry onto the finish, which tastes of hickory, mixed spices and cassis. 89 points.

Vinos de Finca "El Pajaro Rojo" Mencía

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:
This is Losada’s second wine, but more approachable in price and drinkability than their premium wine. It’s a beautifully ripe, voluptuous mencia with a fabulous freshness and vitality made by a young team. Star Buy.

Burgundy black in color, this wine has deep, mystical, musty/earthy fruit on the nose ... with pepper and bark. Soft mouth feel immediately present with herbaceous, sensuous dark cherry and cranberry on the palate. This one is complex without being overbearing, expressing elegance, depth and earthy, integrated fruit. Cherry cola berry. On day 2, blueberry/huckleberry on nose and palate, black currant. Spicebox, luscious fruit, hint of eucalyptus ... incredibly silky mouthfeel and ultimately dry finish. LOVE

♣ International Wine Cellar (September 2012), 88 Points.

♣ Wine Spectator (2011), 87 Points.

This lively red delivers alluring flavors of black raspberry, clove, licorice and vanilla, with light, firm tannins and crisp acidity. Fresh and racy, showing some depth.

Vivid purple. Smoke- and spice-accented aromas of dark berries and cherry, with a peppery overtone. Juicy and precise, offering tangy blackberry and bitter cherry flavors and a touch of licorice. Finishes with good lift and cut, leaving a cherry pit note behind.

Our No. 2 wine, the 2011 El Pájaro Rojo from Losada, was a juicy, fruity, structured wine with spicy, herbal notes unburdened by flavors of oak, unpretentious and pleasurable. At $16, it was our best value. ***

This opaque and very dark purple colored wine opens with a plum bouquet with hints of new leather and some barnyard scents. On the palate, this wine is medium bodied, balanced, juicy and easy to drink. The flavor profile is a ripe plum with notes of old oak and hints of black raspberry and black pepper. The finish is rather dry and its big and dusty tannins build up quite a bit and linger.

Red fruits in spades, with electric energy on the tongue.

[F]rom the dark side of the fruit department, with superearthy notes; brooding but delicious.

For a Splurge

This is problematic. The few wines nontrivially better than those in the l;ist above are real splurges, pushing the century mark; but those in the middle two-digit range are little if any better than what's on the list.

The best sort of compromise we could see is the La Vizcaina "La Vitoriana" Bierzo bottling.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





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