A Mind on Mencia 03/15/11
Okay, I’ll admit it – I’ve developed something of a bad habit lately. Yes, I’ve been Tweeting. But as an unexpectedly positive consequence of my foray into the world of contemporary communication, I’ve been turned on to (and indeed, by) some grape varietals that I hadn’t heard of before. My favorite so far has been Mencia, a Spanish grape which was brought to my attention by Mr. Scott C. Arellano Borges (@poursip), whose blog you can find here, if you know how to click links.
I may talk about a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir on this little blog of mine, but I really love to try new grapes – what kind of vinic adventurer would I be otherwise? Still, if you’re anything like I was a couple of weeks ago, you know the word Mencia comes packaged with a despairingly negative connotation, often triggering an unpleasant, vomitous sensation in anyone who hears it, about which there is nothing funny at all.
So let’s get one thing straight: Mencia the wine grape is not the same as Carlos Mencia the (*ehem*) comedian. It’s more authentically Hispanic, for one, and it’s also obviously far more delicious. Furthermore, I think it’s safe to say that the grape is much, much funnier (although I can’t speak from personal experience on that last one, not having ever seen Carlos perform).
Today I’ll be discussing two Mencias, because you really can’t drink just one: the Dominio de Tares 2006 Exaltos Cepas Viejas ($30), and the Bodega del Abad 2006 Abad Dom Bueno Roble ($15). Both offerings come from Bierzo, a denomination (just winespeak for a government-approved growing region) in Leon, Spain.
Exaltos was the first Mencia I bought, and I’ll confess I made the splurge dually because of 1) the label, and 2) the eponymous implication that this wine would worship me as a god. In the glass it poured a deep, dark maroon, with lighter ruby edges. The nose at once reminded me of one of my favorites, Cabernet Franc, with strong notes of graphite, and eventually redcurrant. The palate showed smooth minerality with graphite, plum and anise flavors supported by firm, creeping tannins and excellent balance.
The 2006 Exaltos Cepas Viejas earns a laudable thumbs up. My first impression of the varietal? Think Cab Franc, but with more confidence.
Alas, one bottle of Mencia was not enough to sate my curiosity, and not two days later I found myself back in the Spain aisle of my favorite liquor store, where I picked up the second of its three Mencias (the third, being $40, will have to wait until my money tree blossoms). I was pretty excited, given my experience with the Exaltos, but prepared to accept the fact that it might have been a fluke.
This one was darker on the eyes, pretty much completely opaque purple, with maroon edges. The nose was an even stronger pencil lead, which opened to graham cracker; and the palate gave me notes of wood and graphite at first, intermingled with pomegranate, cranberry, and eventually chocolate. Tannins were more pronounced on this wine, as was the alcohol, leading me to think it might need another year or two of aging.
Still a very impressive wine. 2006 Abad Dom Bueno Roble earns thumbs up. It was like drinking a pencil – in the best possible way.
Long story short? The verdict is in: Mencia’s a winner!