What is Mencía and where is found?
One of a plethora of local red varieties from north-west Spain, Mencía is particularly popular in DOs like Bierzo or Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei and Valdeorras in Galicia (you may also have seen it as Jaen in the Dão region of Portugal). Traditionally it was grown on flat plains, giving high yields and quite diluted wines which no-one thought very much of. Then, as part of the wine revival that has swept Spain in recent years, some of the country’s star producers like Raúl Pérez, or uncle and nephew combo Alvaro Palacios and Ricardo Pérez Palacios, all from Bierzo, began to make single varietal Mencía wines from older vines on hillier plots, and really started to showcase the variety’s potential to make distinctive wines which sing with a sense of place.
Mencía's main characteristics
Mencía flowers early and ripens early which means that it is better suited to the cooler parts of Spain. In the hot, dry south-east, for example, it would risk over-ripening and losing acidity, giving unbalanced wines. It works well on the slate soils which you can find in abundance in north-west Spain, but excessive damp can make it vulnerable to mildew so growers need to be careful.
What do Mencía wines taste like?
Depending on how it is treated in the vineyard and the winery, Mencía can give a range of different wine styles. But in general, people tend to describe Mencía wines as fresh and perfumed, quite ethereal in nature, with very appealing fruit that works well with very subtle oak or no oak at all. Some like to call it Spain’s Pinot Noir, while others compare it to the Cabernet Franc grown in the Loire.