Guímaro Finca Meixeman Mencia

Like many of you, I’m in a book club that meets once a month. And, I presume, like many of your book clubs, catching up with one another and sharing a few bottles of wine takes up the majority of every "meeting." It probably won’t surprise you to know that my book club is made up of women that work in the wine industry, so rather than the one or two customary bottles on the table, there’s more like ten or twelve. So to stand out from the bounty of bottles on the table, a wine has to be pretty outstanding - especially towards the end of the evening, which is coincidentally when this near perfect Mencia stopped me mid-sentence a few months back.

My good friend Claire (the same Claire that served as the harvest intern on that delicious Texier Roussanne in your November collection) showed up a little late to this particular book club. A few hours into the evening, she quietly set down a bottle I'd never seen on the table before joining the scene. Not one to miss out on tasting something new, I poured myself a sip while chatting away and was immediately floored. “What is this? Mencia? Whatever it is, please tell me this is a wine I can feature for the club!”

What captivated me was the incredible complexity of this wine. It's powerful, with a strong tannic and smoky finish, but in the middle, it has this perfect balance between ripe fruit and a sort of savory, salty bitterness. With aromas of tobacco and earth, black cherry and plum, and a potpourri of black peppercorn, cardamom, and licorice on the finish, it's a meaty wine that's unsurprisingly perfect for pairing with meat. It’s delicious with smoked and grilled steaks, charcuterie, braises and stews, as well as with wild game like venison and duck. It’s even great with corned beef - just in time for Saint Patty’s Day! For the veggie-lovers, it would also pair deliciously with smoked or grilled mushrooms and bell peppers, lentils, or vegetarian chilis.

To get the absolute best out of this bottle, I recommend decanting into a larger vessel or opening a few hours before you sit down to the table. I would also avoid pairing it with overly bitter or spicy foods because they might shift the balance of the wine into an overly tannic and bitter territory

Curious to learn more?

For a long time now, the northwest corner of Spain was only known for zippy white wines made from the Albariño grape. These white wines hit it big in the 90s. Riding on the coattails of recognition and arguably overproduction, it reigned supreme for the next two decades. Hiding below the radar though, was the Mencia grape from the same region - a grape similar to Cabernet Franc in its herbal and chili pepper notes, and like Syrah with its black pepper and elegant floral bouquet. Thankfully, the last few years have seen a real elevation in quality and reputation of Mencia from Galicia, especially from the small regions of Ribeira Sacra and Bierzo.

The vineyards of Ribeira Sacra, which means sacred river, are steeply terraced and quite treacherous to work by hand. According to our importer, Jose Pastor,

“Winegrowing here is not for the faint of heart; it takes spirited determination, unwieldy optimism, a sense of tradition, and a willingness to collaborate.”

Pastor goes on to say that all of these qualities are embodied by the young Pedro Rodriguez of Guimaro, the winemaker of this killer Mencia in our collection. Winemaking for Pedro is, and has been for many generations, a family affair. Not wanting to shoulder their son with the entire weight of the winery, you'll find his parents still working the vineyards by hand each day. It wasn’t until 1991 though that the family established an official winery for commercial production. Before then, they merely made wine for themselves and distributed the rest to the local canteens. They started out making simple young wines, but have since evolved into making expressive and age-worthy single vineyard wines that have forced sommeliers around the world to take note. To increase the quality and complexity of their wines, Pedro led an effort to reduce yields on each vine, put an end to using chemical fertilizers on the soil, and paid close attention to the way each unique exposition of a vineyard towards the sun affected the way each wine developed.

This particular Mencia comes from a small parcel of seventy-year-old vines that are foot tread by the family - no machine crushers here - before the whole grape clusters are fermented in open-top barrels. The reputation may be new for Mencia from this region and wine producing family, but their method of producing wines and caring for their vineyard is nothing but traditional. I look forward to watching this new generation of winemakers in Galicia continue to grow the reputation and reach of Mencia around the world. For anyone looking for an example of just how good Mencia can taste, you can’t do better than this bottle in our collection!

        *Photos of Pedro and the vineyards courtesy of Jose Pastor Selections and Pedro Perez