Mencia is a Spanish grape primarily grown in the North Western part of the country, especially the mountainous region of Bierzo. It was once thought that Mencia was a type of Cabernet Franc, but through DNA testing it is now known that it is a grape variety all its own.
Mencia traditionally produces a light, gentle fruity red, sort of in the Merlot and Chianti area of red wines. Recently winemakers have been working on improving these wines, and are producing more complex wines with dark fruit flavors and generous amounts of tannins.
Some wine producers are experimenting with the method of carbonic maceration to help accentuate the variety’s fruit characteristics and reduce tannins, and wines made using this method are found to be more approachable in their youth.
Where from, and when this grape came to the region is not known, but local inhabitants believe that since Bierzo has always been an important stop on the pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims brought Mencia vines with them from elsewhere. However there is no documentation to support this local speculation. For many years it was thought that Mencia was a Cabernet Franc clone, but DNA testing put an end to this theory, and it is now recognised as it's own varietal grape.
Although it is grown in other areas of Spain including Valdeorra and Ribeiro, the Bierzo region is the main growing area for this grape. This region is home to many small vineyards, with many different micro-climates. These different climates and aspects can have a great effect on the wines produced. For example grapes produced in a West facing vineyard will be sweet and juicy, whereas ones produced in an East facing vineyard will have a fine lemony acidity. Bierzo has a variety of soils ranging from rugged stony well-drained sites to more fertile plots.
Mencia will often be a deep maroon color. Typical flavors are of earth, herbs, mint, rosemary, thyme, dark fruits, raspberry, blackberry, black cherry and you will often find black pepper coming to the fore front of this wine. The more powerful Mencia wines pair well with roasted meats including lamb and beef and venison, while the lighter styles go well with chicken and shellfish, especially when cooked in a tomato or wine based sauce.