2021 La Línea Mencia

From a meagre range of two samples, both from La Línea, it seems Mencia could be right at home in the Adelaide Hills. Such is its obscurity still that it only took an average bid of $15.80 each to win three bottles of different vintages at auction. Hope it doesn’t catch on. This bottle is spanking fresh and deliciously so. Evenly ripe with bright whole berry fruit, there’s violet florals, stewed strawberries, blueberry, almond and a darker twist of fruit and nut chocolate. Cool and composed, the structure has a mouthwatering cut of rocky acidity and skin tannin. Sort of invigorating like those Spanish versions. Love the cheeky location reference in Spanish on the back label.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $15.80 at auction including delivery. Wish all my bids were so good.

93 points for a beautiful grape variety.

A 2019 and the last from the three different vintage bottles from auction just goes to show how idiotic generalisations are in wine. More dilute and lacking the just so ripeness of 2018 and 2021. Looks a shade or two away from the succulent. Bit of that Australian supermarket strawberry that’s a bit sugary but hasn’t developed the warm in season fragrance of summer. Dried herb and a bit of toffee leads to an end that’s teetering on a green edge, not quite there. In its defence, great to see the season writ in the making rather than submerged.

89 points.

2020 Bodegas Rectoral de Amandi Matilda Nieves Mencia Ribeira Sacra DOP

Another of July’s Dan Murphy seven. There’s a sticker on the neck boasting 97 points from Decanter for a simple unoaked red from a relatively large Galician conglomerate of five wineries. What room is there left on the points scale for a DJP La Faraona? Who knows? It opens with a bit of sulphury reduction, as Ribeira Sacras often do. Left to catch its breath and there’s typical cool, tart red fruit. Even ripeness, no jammy flavour nor any green tones. Savoury texture being a huge part of the Spanish wine experience, a rise of silty tannin and saliva drooling acidity carries that crisp fruit. It seems strictly made. Just medium bodied as Ribeira Sacra should be, there’s little if any of the smoky wildness of a deeply complex Guimaro version. Probably made in much larger quantities with an eye on the balance sheet. Nonetheless finding a very enjoyable Galician Mencia for $20 is something. Probably could be persuaded to try another when it’s had a chance to settle in a month or two.

There was a glass left after four days, the bottle kept in the fridge apart from being sloshed around in an esky on a two hour drive. Barely oxidised, that evenly ripe fruit is even more mouthwateringly delicious. I’ll try and find a couple more now. There’s something about Mencia I really like. Probably getting closer to the Decanter score.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $19.90

90 points to start, rocketed up to 91 after a day or two. Maybe it’s a Decanter typo?

2019 Adega Alma das Donas Roberto Flammini Viticultor Almanova Ribeira Sacra DO Mencia

The label’s right about the “Viticultura Heróica”, I get vertigo just looking at google images of those incredible Ribeira Sacra vineyards. Looks like Dan Murphy’s have been busy sourcing some better Spanish bottles. This one is a great example of just how fine Mencia grown on those near vertical vineyards can be. Takes a while to open up in the glass but when it does it just gets better over two or so days. So clean and pure, there’s that perfume that takes me to the Nothern Rhône rather than Galicia. Violets and other florals, smoke and very ripe raspberries. Beguiling sweet minerals. Freshness and succulent balance in shape. Long pure flavours of red fruit, purple flowers and sweetest herbs bathed in a mountain stream. Great focus and evenness of ripeness carried on perfect acidity and tannin like wiping your finger across a wet slate. A weight of peerless fruit on a cloud. As a direct import it represents great value, especially compared how much a modern N Rhône would cost. Think I’ll have to go back for more, that’s two Murphy imports in a week of quality at good prices. Goodness, what’s next?

13% alcohol. Cork, alas. $27.

94 points.

2018 La Línea Mencia

From the pretty Lenswood area of the Adelaide Hills, this is one of those attempts at a Spaniard new to Australia which is so good it makes you think the immigrant may have found a happy home. The front label is a nice graphic but it doesn’t tell you much at all, so the image is the clear, decent size font back label. Composed smells of currants, dried cherries and raspberries rest on a savoury couch of nut paste and tiny blip of coffee oak. Unusually for rich Aussie fruit, there’s a cut of natural fine acidity, yes, the sort that makes wine freaks think of licking wet stones. Tightly wound fine tannin too. Second day, some blueberry and sweet tobacco. Such an interesting variety. Sort of like mixing up good North end Rhône Syrah and Cabernet Franc, if that makes any sense? Probably my over active imagination but there’s a real sense of the sort of composure that suggests Mencia will be happy up in the hills.

13% alcohol. Screw cap. $29.

92 points but a bonus for serendipity.

2016 Decendientes de J Palacios Pétalos Bierzo

Like a vulture perched on the crumbling edges of physical retail, you had to be quick to spot a bargain in David Jones’ city centre rationalisation, a word for weasels. More Mencia the merrier from this great producer. A wee hint of development, dark preserved cherries, plum, fine dark chocolate, sage, perhaps lavender, mineral cut lick the spark of two flints smacked together, sweet ripe tannin and mouthwatering acidity. It’s the thrust of fruit, then the slash of structure that’s so good.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $35 in DJ’s sale, normally about $50.

93 points.

2018 Guímaro Mencia Ribeira Sacra DOP

From the most vertigo inducing vineyards I’ve ever teetered upon, it seems 2018 was particularly good in north west Spain for getting Mencia nicely ripe. This is wild but clean, so smoky, nutty and dark sour cherried. Blood orange both in flavour and mouthwatering acidity. Backing chorus of sweet dried fruit and fine dark chocolate. Gets a bit balsamic after twenty four hours but such is the natural wild edge, it all gets pulled back into delicious shape by that mineral acidity. Worth risking your neck to pick grapes this good. I think this is what terroir and natural wine means, done proper.

13% alcohol, perfect. Cork, not so perfect. $40 RRP.

93, perhaps subjective 94 points.

2015 Descendientes de J. Palacios Petalos Bierzo

From a very good vintage in top left corner of Spain whether it be Galicia or just across the border in Leon following the river Sil upstream, this was worth a bid at auction. DJP as us Mencia fanciers know them seem to be the original revivalists of the variety in the almost just a memory vineyards of Bierzo. Smoky and floral in that unavoidable comparison with the north end of the Rhône valley. Grew in the glass to rich but never jammy soft berries, summer pudding style. An extra depth of fruit fills out the rear and just as powerful, there’s a roaring cut of perfectly ripe tannin and extraordinary stoney, mineral acidity. If this is the entry level, it does make you wonder how good the more expensive single vineyard bottles could be. Very tempted to spend the whole month’s wine budget on one or several months’ worth in the case of La Faraona.

14% alcohol. Cork. $47 at auction.

94 points.

2017 Casa da Passarella A Descoberta Dão Tinto

Memory is a curious thing. On holiday in Lisbon a few years ago, the encyclopaedic wine shop the Garrafeira Nacional recommended a red or tinto from the high hills of Dão. It was a beacon shone bright, lighting up the flavours of grape and place. Forgetful, I left my notebook of wine ramblings on a meal table somewhere, never to be seen again. All that was left was a memory of a really good wine but no name. When an email from a favourite importer appeared offering this, it provoked an odd stirring in the cobwebbed recesses of recognition. Double checking the Garrafeira website, it could indeed be that forgotten label. There’s certainly the purity of flavour and aroma I remember. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz aka Tempranillo, Alfrocheiro and Jaen aka Mencia, so very Portuguese. There’s a spicy aroma and flavour I associate with Northern Portugal. It’s here wrapped up in rich plum and red berries, a little clove, aniseed and cinnamon, maybe a contribution from some clean oak and Touriga’s dark blackberry jam. No lack of backbone, a shining blade of bright acid and really firm tannin push austerely against the sweet spice and fruit. Warm but granite mountain fresh. Very much for the table and something meaty. Nearly forgot, it’s delicious.

13.5% alcohol. Cork. $30 rrp.

93 points and muito bom.

August 2021 and another pandemic lockdown, cool grey days and another bottle to cheer the patient resignation. Perhaps not quite as fruit laden as the first but does have that quartz like sparkle of austerity and curranty warmth that brings thoughts of that rugged country up those Portuguese rivers. Oddly like old school Clare Valley firmness with Portuguese spice replacing bush scents of mint and gum trees. The coffee oak touch often common to both too.

92 points.

2016 Bodegas Godelia Viernes Mencia Bierzo

Viernes is Friday in Spanish, this got opened on the day and finished on Saturday. Seems like everyday is casual Friday these days. Bit muddy to open but as it aired freshness came. Poised mid weight, Tart just picked raspberries and all sorts of red fruit served on a glistening slab of wet granite tannin and serious mouthwatering acidity. Bit of extra sweet ripe depth adds dimension. Mencia seems to fill that gap between glossy Gamay and sturdy Syrah, best of both in some ways. Although Bierzo’s just outside Galicia on the map, it leans close. Distinctive geography with its own delicious grape. Bit of pig would add to the flavour grunt.

14% alcohol. Screw cap, and little reduction despite the cork lobby. 412 gms of glass, bravo. Part of an iso bargain pack, lost the electronic receipt.

93 points, lovely grapes.

Too lazy to do a separate post BUT…..

The 2018 edition is really, really good. All the above but just finer, longer and beautifully shaped. A definite re buy and away for a couple of years. Bravo, TSA! Same numbers as above but 94 plus maybe a bit in time points.

2016 Veronica Ortega Quite Bierzo Mencía

Perhaps the best red grape revival from Spain in recents decades? From the apparently tiny village of Valtuille comes a fresh, clean, deliciously red fruited version. Opens with a quick to evaporate touch of green tinged reduction. Then red currants and raspberries morph to mulberries with an almost incense like lift, brisk and crisp, nice and clean. Second day, the glistening fruit gets redder than red with a chew of toffee. Oddly the texture made me think of a lean and sinewy cyclist ripping along a bitumen path cut through shining granite. Weird mind, graceful wine. Quite nice.

13% alcohol. Cork. $30.

92 points.