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.

2016 Bodegas Ladairo Monterrei

Mainly Mencía with a bit of Arúxa which is yet another Spanish alternative name for Tempranillo. From a region in furthest south Galicia near the Portuguese border, this is a delicious joven style, unaffected by barrels. Opens up straightaway with bright whole berry ferment scents of cherry and blueberry. Over time a distinct wet rock, er…mineral fume backs up the clean crunchy fruit. Just medium weight the flavours keep up the sparkling crystal fruit and rock theme all pulled along on fine pumice tannin and fresh but ripe acidity. If you hadn’t seen the label, a good guess would be a good savoury cru Beaujolais but not quite right as there’s a sense of rugged Galician river valleys about this. Fanciful no doubt but there’s something about good wine that makes geography more interesting than it was at school.

13% alcohol. Cork. Bargain from our local importer’s bin end sale, cheers Spanish Acquisition!

92 points.

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.