2018 Guimaro Tinto, Ribeira Sacra
From: Galicia, Spain
Mencia is a red wine grape native to northwest Spain. Synonymous with the red wines of Bierzo, it has enjoyed something of a revival in recent decades following years of producing light and astringent wines. Improved, low-yielding viticulture and a greater focus on available hillside sites has seen the variety court international attention. Mencia wines tend to exhibit earthy, vegetal characters with berry nuances and stony minerality.
The variety, with its somewhat thick-skinned, violet-blue grapes, was once thought to be related to Cabernet Franc. Modern DNA testing has disproved this theory, however, but has uncovered that it is genetically identical to Portugal's Jaen.
This has led to some uncertainty as to the origin of the variety: while most signs point to Bierzo as Mencia's home, it could well have been brought there from Dão in Portugal.
Mencia's role as a simple, regional grape variety, grown in volume and used to make table wines, was challenged at the turn of the 20th Century, following the attention of famous Spanish producer Alvaro Palacios - one of the pioneers of the Priorat region in Catalonia. Old vines and Bierzo's dramatic, high-altitude terroir have proved useful for the quality of the wines. This was further enhanced by improved viticultural methods and extra vigilance in the winery.
The Bierzo region itself sits in the rolling foothills only just inside Castilla y Leon and to the northwest of León. It is east of Galicia's Valdeorras.
The wines have a bright complexion with a vivid maroon color, relatively fresh acidity and tannins. The fruit flavors can range from red to black fruits, often with an herbal dimension of mint or thyme. Mencia can be challenging in the vineyard, and has a tendency towards low yields, making it a challenging prospect for growers and winemakers. It is susceptible to botrytis and mildew and can lose its acidity quickly if not harvested promptly.
Mencia's high alcohol and moderate acidity provide something of a juggling act at harvest and in the winery. Oak is used sparingly, as it can overwhelm Mencia's rather delicate flavor profile.
Some producers are experimenting with carbonic maceration to accentuate the variety's fruit characteristics and reduce tannins.
Ribeira Sacra DO (Denominación de Origen) is a winegrowing zone at the heart of Galicia, north-western Spain. Its boundaries are marked roughly by the Mino and Sil rivers, both of which flow down from the Cantabrian Mountains en route to the Atlantic Ocean. Winemaking in this area dates back to Roman times and was continued by monks during the Middle Ages. The name Ribeira Sacra means 'Sacred Shore,' which most likely references the numerous monasteries in the area.
The landscape of the region is dotted with Romanesque architecture, and the steep slopes and canyons overlooking the two rivers are dominated by beautiful, banked terrace vineyards. Here, gradients can reach up to 85 percent, making vineyard work laborious or heroica(heroic), as it is known locally. The Ribeira Sacra area, which today covers around 2965 acres, was accorded DO status in 1996.
Ribeira Sacra is considerably less affected by the Atlantic Ocean than its eastern neighbor, Rias Baixas. The Sil river valleys have a more continental climate, with long warm summers and cold wet winters. Humidity here is also much lower than in the Rías Baixas and the rivers act as thermoregulators. The steepness of the vineyards ensures good drainage of the slate and granite soils and the terraced sites are also positioned carefully to maximise sunshine hours. All of these factors enable the vines here to produce grapes with concentrated flavors, expressive of the local terroir.
Taste: Ribeira Sacra Tinto is savory and silky, marked by luscious flavors of red fruit, plums, wet earth, and sweet spice.
Pairing: Sirloin of Ibérico pork, blackened chicken with cajun spices, grilled duck with walnut pesto, tacos, mushroom risotto, and hearty vegetable dishes.