Mencía (“Men-thee-ah”) is a medium-bodied red wine grape that produces high quality wines with floral and red fruit flavors. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s not surprising, Mencía only grows in Spain and Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula. What makes Mencía special is it has shown the ability to age like other fine wines and it offers rich aromas in the glass. If you love Pinot Noir and other aromatic reds (like Gamay or Schiava), then Mencía is something worth investigating.
TIP: Mencía is labeled as Jaen (“jyne”) in Portugal.
Taste of Mencía
Mencía contains high levels of a sub-group of aroma compounds called terpenoids which translate into lovely flowery aromas, strawberry, raspberry, black licorice, pomegranate and cherry sauce. When you look at a glass of Mencía, you’ll notice its deep red color with subtle hues of violet towards the rim. The color tells us that Mencía has high anthocyanin (the red pigment in wine). On the palate you’ll be greeted with peppery flavors of sour cherry, red currant and pomegranate along with a bitter cherry pit flavor which comes from the wine’s tannin. In the regions where it grows in Spain and Portugal, you will taste a subtle crushed gravel or granite-like minerality in the texture, which often contributes to its black peppery taste.
What’s to love about Mencía?
Mencía is a great food wine (or better yet, while you’re making food) as well as something to consider setting down for a couple of years, to taste how it evolves. Because quality production for Mencía wine is still growing, we’ll begin to see more and more of these wines in the market.
Cost for Quality: $15–$20
Decant: Yes! 45 minutes.
Food Pairing with Mencía
Peppery, meaty dishes absorb the tannin in Mencía and embolden the red fruit flavors in the wine. By Alan Tran
Charcuterie, Steak au Poivre (pepper steak), Pastrami Sandwiches, Corned Beef, Pepperoni Pizza, Smoked Seitan, Barbecue, Wild Game, Roast Pork, Beef Brisket, Carne Asada, Dark Meat Turkey, Duck, Portuguese blood sausage, Chicken Fajitas
Monterey Jack, White Cheddar, Serra da Estrela (Portugal), Azeitão (Portugal), Idiazabal (aka Petit Basque), San Simon da Costa (Spain), Queso Iberico (Spain), Manchego (Spain), Tetilla (Spain), Ossau-Iraty (France)
Black Pepper, White Pepper, Nutmeg, Allspice, Clove, Anise, Fennel seed, Black Cardamom, Sichuan Pepper, Rosemary, Sage, Bay Leaf, Dill, Garlic, Shallot, Caraway, Dijon Mustard, Hickory, Savory Barbecue Sauce, Celery Seed
Mushroom Risotto, Portabello Mushroom Steak, Onion, Red Cabbage, Lentil, Wild Rice, Tomato, Stewed Apricot, Prune, Hazelnut, Bell Pepper, Olive, Artichoke
Where does it grow and what to look for
Mencía grapes are grown in Bierzo, Valdeorras and Ribera Sacra in Spain, and Dão (as well as part of Beira Interior) in Portugal. The highly prized Mencía wines generally come from older hillside vineyards where the grapes are more concentrated. In the mountainous Ribera Sacra region, the position of the vineyard slope will also affect the ripeness of the grapes. So, if you confirm the wine comes from a southern facing vineyard, you’re likely to experience a more intensely flavored Mencía wine.
A panorama of Valdeorras.
Some of the most intriguing wines made with Mencía wines often have a touch (around 15%) of the other indigenous red wine varieties blended in of Brancellao, Merenzao, Sousón and Caíño Tinto. These varieties are thought to smooth out some of Mencía’s bitter tannin. Since these varieties are so rare, it’s near impossible to find them as single-varietal wines.
If you’re not a fan of bitter tannin: Mencía can be made with softer tannins. Look for wines aged in oak barrels with tasting notes of nutmeg, brown sugar or vanilla.
By Madeline Puckette, Winefolly