The star grape in north-west Spain, Mencia, is behind the successful growth of small appellations such as El Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra. The origin of Mencia vine cultivation in this area probably dates back to the Middle Ages when monastic orders who had come to the region from Burgundy started to cross grapes they had brought with local varieties. One of the results of the monks’ interest in winemaking is what we now know as Mencia, a grape capable of producing light and fresh wines but which can also create great red wines which age with elegance, especially if the grapes come from old vines planted in poor soil.
Mencia vines produce small grapes and small bunches. The grape has a bluish-black colour and is fairly sensitive to fungal diseases. The hard work behind a successful crop gives its rewards, though, as Mencia wines can be extremely seductive, fruity and aromatic ones. Wines made from the fruit of young plants or high yield vineyards do not have very intense colours, but using old vines or controlling production to ensure a perfect ripening brings stronger colours and more complex wines. The best Mencia red wines are lively and velvety and well suited to ageing in wood, which adds spice and toast to their typically fruity (raspberry) and discretely smoky aromas. This grape variety is also an excellent transmitter of its terroir, expressing the character of climate and soil with the utmost transparency.
Mencia produces wines which do not have a particularly high alcohol content, nor are they too acidic, so it is also suited for making rosé wines or for carbonic maceration processes. Its mineral character, medium body and silky feel, embellished with aromas of fruits of the forest and undergrowth have led to a rapidly increasing interest in this grape from wine-lovers keen for new sensations and challenges.