I’d never paid much attention to this grape until I had a glass of Ribeira Sacra four years ago. This week I popped a 2014 Silice Ribeira Sacra, which Chambers was pitching a few weeks back. This is 80% mencia from 60-80-year-old vines. Low sulfur, blah-blah-blah. This has pretty high acid, and needed a little air before it fleshed out in the mouth; it was a bit tart and tight when the cork was first pulled. But the nose was fabulous – intense red cherries and strawberries. And with some air, it became quite lovely.
This grape seems to be capable of great things. Why don’t we hear more about it? Is it just because it’s grown in an obscure area and perhaps didn’t get the attention it deserved in the vineyards and cellars?
Along similar lines, though with different grapes, is the 2013 Buena Pinta (Ponce) Manchuela, which I got hooked on last year and have been drinking regularly since. It’s a different grape and region but gives a similar impression. For $16 at PJ’s, this gives a lot of bang for the buck. Not extraction/power bang – just flavor and pleasure bang. It’s very light but with an intense sour cherry/strawberry nose, very much like the Ribeira Sacra. It reminds me a lot of Frick’s Dry Creek counoise, which has similar aromatics and a similar structure. A perfect summer red, and I don’t mean that in a demeaning way at all. It’s got boatloads of flavor but is light. Plus, there are points for obscurity because it’s ~90% moravia agria, an indigenous grape, with the balance being garnacha. (Wikipedia’s entry for Manchuela doesn’t even list moravia agria as an approved grape in the DOC, though it does list moravia dulce.)
I’ve had a few Mencias from Ribeira Sacra and Bierzo in the last years. From many of the producers that are advertised as the next big thing both in non-hipster (Wine Advocate) and hipster (instagram) channels. None of them did it to me, at least none fulfilled the promises that I read everywhere. Maybe you need to age them for a long time, maybe I just didn’t drink the good stuff. Just this week, we had a Algueira 2009 Ribeira Sacra Carballo Gallego, aged in Galician oak and a Peique 2006 Bierzo “Seleccion Familiar”. The first one was a bit boring and the second one was overextracted, overoaked and didn’t even taste like Mencia. I find the whole revival in the region exciting, but I feel like maybe I just don’t like Mencia based wines as much as others.
Because they are just well made and plain. They’ll never make something there of Pegau of GC/GCC burg/Bdx quality. IMO, WA scores were widely inflated and I’m typically in agreement with the exception of squires and Louis G. Like, out of the realm of plausibility inflated. For people to care about an obscure grape it needs to either offer tremendous value or have points plus a concerted marketing effort (and these producers don’t have millions to throw at a dynamic marketing campaign). Even then, Riesling was a sales flop and they had the entire somm population and a decent amount of collectors clammoring for it; I don’t know any retailers or restaurants that are happy devoting any more space to this category for any rational (read MONEY) reason…
Maybe insta and Pinterest posts can generate some sales for these guys but I’m not a buyer of this grape even at $1/btl unless someone buys a property who sells their other wines at completely stratospheric prices so there can (maybe) be an awesome reference point in the region.
If I see a Ribera Sacra on a wine list I usually enjoy them. I’m a fan. I know folks point to Chinon as a reference point, but I find the great ones a little more like Nerello Mascalese. I substantially prefer what I’ve seen from Ribera Sacra to Bierzo (in general).
Well said. I’ve been very impressed with a number of Ribeira Sacra wines (not limited to Mencia, btw), but most Bierzos have a nasty burnt black pepper quality to them. (Try sprinkling some over an open flame if you don’t know what I mean.) We’ve done a few extensive Bierzo tastings, with a good range of producers and winemaking approaches. My first guess would be that character is from a canopy management issue.
Zero Mencia-based wines are found in wine shops in my area. I have yet to try any <$15 bottles from the North-West area of Spain. My experience is incredibly limited on this topic, but I hope that I may have a chance to get my hands on some of the newer wines.
I fear that the current “break-through” approach for many winemaking regions involves the adoption of too much oak, intraregional squabbles (if a smaller area) which impede a unified vision in marketing, and prohibitively high pricing.
Yes, I am speaking generally here. The Albariño wines of the early 2000’s were a mixed bag of quality, especially with respect to the use of oak/ML. The first Mencia-based wine I had was the Descendientes de José Palacios “Corullon”, at the time ~$40/btl. I enjoyed the wine, but its less expensive sibling “Petalos” beared little likeness to it - one was from incredibly old vineyards on steep slopes; the other from younger vines in fertile valley floors.
I’m drinking a 2013 Finca Millara Ribeira Sacra Lagariza now, which exhibits what I like about Mencia. Berries with a little spice, a little floral, a hint of caramelized sugar, and a refreshing grapefruit pith finish. Super tasty and easy to drink.
I think the wide variations in style have hurt interest in mencia instead of helping it. Just a guess but if the first Mencia one tries is not something they like, they aren’t going to seek out more. So with limited options available on store shelves, there is a high probability of getting a wine that stylistically doesn’t suit.