I learned a lot about a lot when studying Spain to become a Spanish Wine Scholar recently, including diving into a plethora of indigenous varieties to the country that I was unfamiliar with, like Mencia. Mencia is Spain’s Pinot Noir, with more of everything.
Indigenous to the northwestern part of Spain, specifically Bierzo in Castilla y Leon and Valdeorras and Ribera Sacra in Galicia with a Maritime climate heavily influenced by cooling breezes off the Atlantic Ocean, ensuring grapes are kept fresh with great acidity. Melding this freshness with the inherent earthiness of the mineral-rich region filled with slate, quartz, silty loam, and water-retaining clay (important for battling the hot summer Spanish days), ideal for creating wines with texture, concentration, and character. The thick-skinned grape produces aromatic wines filled with floral notes of wildflowers, melding with an earthy, truffle-like, smoky characteristic, leading to flavors of wild strawberry, cranberry, pomegranate, and freshly cracked pepper.
From Valdeorras (or Valley of Gold) in Galicia, Bodegas Avancia produces their expressive Cuvée de O Mencía ($18) from organic, dry-farmed, old vines planted over 40-60 years ago in mineral intense slate soils, delivering wines with incredible texture and structure, while remaining completely approachable. Aromas of thyme, lavender, and rosemary lift from the wine, melding with ripe red berries and a touch of smokiness, followed by flavors of crushed blackberry, blueberry, toasted spice, and pepper.
Sitting along the Camino de Santiago, Losada began in the Bierzo region in 2004 focusing on predominantly clay soils to grow the variety, highlighting the delicate nature of Mencia, showcasing the tenderness of the variety with a non-interventionist approach. Losada Mencia ($22) layers red fruit notes of raspberry and boysenberry with citrus hints of Meyer lemon and tangerine with an undertone of dried woody herb and wildflowers with the clean freshness shining through from beginning to end.
Winemaker Raul Perez focused on small production, handcrafted, artisanal wines from Bierzo for his Bodegas Raul Perez, allowing the varieties and the terroir to shine in his expressive wines. With vibrant energy, Bodegas Raul Perez Ultreia St. Jacques ($22) is spicy and juicy, with notes of blackberry jam, fresh herb, and toasted spice.