Mencía

Origin: First thought to be a clone of the famous Cabernet Franc grape, but DNA profiling disclaimed that idea and instead showed that the grape most likely originated in Portugal, where it is known under the name Jaen

Grown: Spain (Bierzo, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras) and Portugal (Dão)

Climate: Cross between maritime and continental

Soil: Mainly Schist, but the best spots with some Llicorella slate soil (The soil that made Priorat famous)

Viticulture: Best spots are found in steep slopes where the yields are naturally limited by the steepness in relation to the slate rich soil. Low yields and old vines seem to be the key to finding the true personality of Mencía. It got a bit of a bad reputation from when it was over produced from far to fertile soils (high yields)

Regional names to look for on label:

  • Bierzo DO
  • Ribeira Sacra DO
  • Valdeorras DO

General Personality:

  • Colour: Ruby red, with a clear hint of purple when young
  • Aromas: Sour cherries, black licoricey, gravel, bay leaf, black pepper
  • Taste and Texture: From medium bodied in local Spanish table wines to full bodied, quite tannic rich wines. Generally, a noticeable acidity and moderate alcohol level makes it very food friendly
  • Conclusion: A wine of many expressions. Old vines with small yields can give complex and amazing wines, while mass-produced versions are just plain boring, Invest in a serious expression of this wine and you will be rewarded with an amazing complex but at the same time approachable wine
  • Future: Depending on the style: some oak aged versions could be well worth some time in the cellar, while others are very clearly meant to be drunk now. Have a spicy inherent structure that is very adaptable

Food pairings:

  • General: Has a characteristic green nature to the flavour profile (like Cabernet Franc that it was once confused to). Which makes it an amazing paring to dishes that reflects that green tone, but do not forget the protein, the tannins demand it for balance
  • Obvious pairing: Ratatouille
    There are a million recipes so find your own favourite. An uncomplicated dish, but an amazing paring to Mencía. If the wine has a heavy structure, look for a recipe that plays with some heavier components, but generally a good go to
  • On the wild side: Tofu scramble stuffed bell peppers
    To be honest, this is a bit of a wild one. Here is an idea of a recipe. When I tried it, I added some nutritional yeast to the scramble and replaced the tomato sauce with soy cream to bring up the creaminess. I also accompanied the dish with a side of rise and peas. Very interesting pairing in the end! If you have an oak age version of Mencía, be sure to play with some smoke essence or use smoked tofu for the scramble