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What Wine Where: Mencía

Spanish wine is not all about Garnacha and Tempranillo. These days, lesser-known varietals are gaining worldwide recognition as young winemakers try new variations on the wines grown by their forefathers.

Mencía is one such wine. Possibly originating in Portugal but firmly established in Galicia, Mencía is widely planted in the area’s prominent grape-growing regions of Ribeira Sacra, Bierzo and Valdeorras, as well as Léon. For some time, it was believed that Mencía was related to Cabernet Franc, but recent DNA testing has revealed that there is no family connection.

The grape itself has a thick skin of deep violet. Because it thrives in a cool climate, Mencía has a bracing acidity. This is not an overly tannic wine, which makes it a good pairing partner for anything from beef and pork to chicken and pasta dishes. Historically, Mencía was produced in a rustic style, suitable for basic table wine. Today, producers are creating more elegant wines, taking advantage of the grape’s acidity and alcohol content to produce quality wines that are complex yet affordable.  

Wine lovers may detect raspberry and fresh red fruit notes similar to what you’d find in a Pinot Noir. Mencía also displays aromas found in some Syrahs, including pepper and violets. Open the bottle anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes before pouring to tease out the aromas. Here’s the scoop on Mencía:

Label Lingo

Look for wines from Bierzo and Ribeira Sacra. If you see a Portuguese wine labeled Jaen, this grape is identical to Mencía.


Mencía is a dry wine with a refreshing acidity. The tannins are on the smooth side. On the nose, you’ll get an instant riot of raspberries and cherries, fresh violets, green olives and herbs. Older wines will display a touch of spice and even tar. Although some wines are aged in oak, opt for Mencía that has spent little to no time in wood.


Sharp cheese, stews, vegetarian dishes, roasted meat. Try it with: Lime Cilantro Caraotas (Black Beans), Chicken Stew with Peas and Mint, Pork Stew, Milanesa de Berenjenas a la Parmesana (Eggplant Milanesa).


Descendientes de José Palacios, Alvaro Palacios, Finca Millara, Dominio do Bibei, Guimaro Finca Capelinos.

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