2017 Raúl Pérez La Clave Bierzo

Recommended by La Cuvée de la Plaça in genteel but rebellious Girona. Again a smoky, perfumed and red fruited Mencia. Treads a narrow path between fresh tartness and ripe sweetness, keeping its balance all the way to a crisp and flavorful end. The main impression is clean and richly ripe but there’s a rocky cut. When in Spain it’s hard to ignore this star of a variety. Tempranillo’s quietly interesting neighbour.

14% alcohol. Cork. 11 euros for another bargain.

93 points.

2015 Casar de Burbia Bierzo

From the shelves of a large Carrefour supermarket in Madrid from a good ripe vintage and just under 10 euros, alright, go on then. Opens cleanly with bright dark red fruit, smoke, spice and a dash of mocha. Delicious swell of even ripeness gives width and sweet tannins drag long on buried acidity. Sort of has the class of a sculptured Franc from a famous right bank. Warm for Mencia and just maybe shows the way summers are getting hotter and longer across Europe? Certainly this lacks the marked tart tang of some cooler mountain Mencia. Nonetheless still gently warm and ripe and extreme value. Did it satisfy the craving for a wild mountain adventure, not sure.

14% alcohol. Cork. 9.95 euros of great value.

93 points like it says on the bottle.

2018 Adegas Moure Abadía da Cova Ribeira Sacra

Very pretty label that bears no relation to the info on the back of the bottle. Don’t remember seeing many pink flamingos on those frighteningly steep terraces either. Nonetheless a crisp translucent Mencia. Only just medium stature. Tart red fruits, purple florals, smoking dark rocks and a pinch of spice. Takes a while to shake the just bottled disjointed flow but by day three, it breathes freely, ridding itself of surly reduction and a suggestion of something not quite hygienic. Fresh mountain acidity and a cat’s tongue lick of tannin fit well. Long way from Aragón in distance and weight. Still Spain but less sunburned.

12.50% alcohol. Cork. 9 euros.

92 points.

2017 Decendientes de J Palacios Pétalos Bierzo

Entry level Mencia from this prestigious producer. Dark red berries, a smear of blueberry, spicy peppered granite and pencil sharpener smells. Rich and ripe feeling for a mountain Mencia with sooty cocoa tannins and good freshening acidity. Perfumed with that floral smokiness that looks a bit North end Rhône. There’s some real power as the fruit swells in flavour before the texture sweeps in. Quite a statement for the bottom of the range. A spare thousand euros or so and you can taste the top end.

13.50% alcohol. Cork. 16 euros.

93 points like the Guia Penin sticker says.

2015 Guimaro Rebeira Sacra Mencia

Twenty years ago Mencia was not part of the curious wine drinker’s vocabulary. Now some of the world’s most dramatic and beautiful terraced vineyards are producing piercingly pure, fresh red wine. Google the area and be gobsmacked by how hard the work must be to prune, work and harvest from these dizzying slopes. Some so steep, one slip and you’d be sliding down into the river.

This one has that typically smokey reductive nose that always make me think of the Northern Rhone. Mencia, Jancis says, is no relation to Syrah. Perhaps it’s the soil and river side? The slight pong clears to delicious raspberry freshness and a full palate of almost tart berries where the mouthwatering acidity just wins over the fine tannins. Long and lip smacking indeed.  Nice layer of darker sweet jamon lurks beneath. Really, who needs oak with something this pristine?

Sometimes spending twice the usual weekday budget’s worth it.

13% alcohol. Cork. $36.

93 points.